One of the things I do, even though it often makes me sad, is read the obituaries in the newspaper. I feel it’s my way of showing respect to lives lived by those in the community I live in. For me it’s like I’m acknowledging lives that have passed in what, no matter how long the person has lived, is like a blink of the eye of the cosmos.
Good days are those when no one represented there is under 50. Maybe because I am under that age myself I feel that 50 years are at least time enough to get some things right, to have some impact on the world. Any age less than that seems far too short.
The second thing I look for is if the person has children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. This is often the first sign of a legacy that the person has left to the world. But, that’s not the only measure. I also take heart in those that list the number of accomplishments, as children are not the only measure of a person’s legacy. There I run into the sad state of newspapers.
I remember a time when obituaries were different. When cause of death was often listed, now it hardly ever is. When you see, Jane Smith, 27, died…you have to wonder was she ill, was it a car accident? What would take the life of someone so young. Then you have to wonder about the person’s wishes. Now that obituaries are charged by the line or column inch…is a person with the free 3-4 line obituary unaccomplished? Unloved? Did they not too have family that will miss them? Here I’m torn…what is more important paying for lines and lines to memorialize a loved one or using that money to fund the living.
Of all the changes in the newspaper business this one bothers me the most. I would be one, and I’ve told my family, they are not to spend the money for the long obituary. The few lines provided for free are enough for me. But, should a grieving family be “scalped” in a sense to show their love? I am all for a limit on obituaries, of I don’t know 200 words even, but to limit it to the short 3-4 lines which says Name, age, died. So and so has charge…it seems sadder in fact that the person dying. Did they have no loved ones? Or did they have those who mourned who couldn’t afford the fee? Or did their wishes, like mine strictly express that money could be better spent elsewhere…
And what of the newspapers? They aren’t the one to “collect” these fees. Often times they have arrangements with funeral homes that suggest the writing of an obituary that they will place with the paper(s) and then the charge is placed in what has become the exorbitant fees that are charged to take care of our dearly departed.
Has death become prey? A friend of mine told me recently, as she was mourning the death of a grandparent, that if she had her wish she would want to be carved up and fed to sharks at sea. At first I thought it silly but then I found it so wise. It’s a circle of life kind of thing she explained. Burial at sea plus becoming part of the food chain, it is truly brilliant; except for the fact here in the US it’s illegal.
Sometimes I wonder about our “evolved” society that takes away more and more freedoms every day. Yet, somehow through those laws allows companies to prey upon us. Everyone at some point in their life is going to pay to die. Well their families or the US taxpayers. It’s the final payment on our lives…our memories our memorials, our obituary, once a matter of public record…informing people not only of someone’s passing but the cause. In a way a public service, so and so died of small pox (avoid their home). So and so died in a tragic car accident (you can’t catch anything go and comfort the family as much as you are able).
Now it’s all business…So I read every single obituary, most days. And I’m always glad of the long ones that recognize a life whether short or long, whether parental or not, whether accomplished or not and the ones that are the “free” 3-4 lines…I read them 3-4 times. There is a story in everyone’s life and I miss the days when it did not cost to tell it…
Tech note of the week: Draw Something, I’m addicted, I bought it. Proof that the free model for apps really does work…I gladly bought it. I don’t mind paying for an app, once it’s proven to me that I can’t live without it.