Seeing Lives in Obituaries

I owe my dad an apology.

When I was in my early twenties and thought I was so wise, I was sitting at the breakfast table with my dad. He had one section of the paper and I had another.

My love for reading the daily newspaper comes from him. My day feels off somehow unless I spend the first little bit reading about what is going on in the world and around town. It has to be a paper that I hold in my hand and doesn’t cooperate when you turn the page.

He looked up from his paper and asked how a young man could be reading the funny pages. (I still look forward to them every morning, often reading my favorites to my wife, Vickie. Seeing Snoopy dance makes me smile even without music. And I worry about the parents in the strips Curtis, Baby Blues, and Zits.)

I responded isn’t it morbid for a grown man to start his day reading the obituaries. Like me and the funnies, he would read selected ones to my mom.

Today, I find myself reading all of the morning paper. (Yes, it has to be in the morning. Reading in the afternoon makes the news history.) This includes the obituaries as well as the funnies, sports and news.

It’s amazing what you find in the obituaries. This weekend an 85-year-old was survived by his 88 and 100 year-old-siblings. Can you imagine? My baby brother is 42. A grown man, but still my baby brother. I imagine it never changes.

Another obituary was of a beautiful 20-year-old who was killed in a motorcycle accident with a drunk driver. She was way too young to be in this list.

One lady’s told of her love of bridge. Military careers, music, and church service are often listed. Lives lived elsewhere before retiring or how someone touched several areas as they moved through their lives are recounted.

Sometimes, however, it’s just a list of family members and the time of the funeral. I wonder what was left and did no one know about it any longer, or they thought it wasn’t important.

The obituaries make me realize the older, slow-moving, physically weakened person ahead of me has a history, one with a stronger body and mind. A war hero, an accomplished ballet dancer, or an artist may be living just down the street. Disguised in a senior citizens body.

Thanks, Dad. For helping me not to miss these stories who are living all around me.

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