Sunday, December 4, 2011

Obituaries and reflections

I think my favorite section of the paper to read is the obituaries. No, I won't do the old joke that I make sure I am not in there each day and in fact, the only day I read them is on Sunday, but I love the glimpse into the lives and rarely do they answer all the questions that they raise.

The really long obituaries always call for a good scanning to see why this person is so famous and best guess is they have money since you are charged for each inch in print and from what I understand, it is not cheap. Usually these people's stories begin from the beginning and read more of a narrative of what all they have accomplished with their lives, their service in the military, corporations they have led, and usually end with information on their service and request for donations to their favorite foundation/fund.

Then there are those who look so young in their picture. Rarely does it tell why or how they passed away though, which I appreciate, but then if they ask for donations to a specific cause, you assume that is what caused the loss of this young life. You immediately feel the loss this whole family must feel.

Where it gets confusing is if the picture is of a younger person but the years accumulated are significantly higher. I always wonder what made them choose that picture? Is it the only one they had? Was that their favorite time in life?

Obituaries are also a source of great nicknames, not just Jim or Charlie, or Meg, or Liz, but those that you know have a great story behind them. I have always wished for a good nickname. Maybe I haven't lived the kind of life that warrants a great nickname. Seems like you have to be more of a character than I am. I might have been headed that way, but with the addition of two daughters, have decided my run of a character needed to end.

I've heard a commencement address on the importance of what happens in the dash that appears between the year you are born to the year you die. There is a great story on the Internet right now of an obituary for a professor from Central Connecticut State University. After reading it, complete strangers have voiced how much they wish they had known him.

Tonight's perusal of the most recent obituaries and with the professor's story on my mind, it made me wonder if how we live our life is backward. Maybe we should write our obituary, then try to go back and accomplish those things. Do you want to be known as the member of a bunch of clubs? Companies you have worked for? Schools you have attended? Or do you want to be known for the difference you made in other's lives or that you worked tirelessly to improve, say the access of clean water to others? Would the place where you spend the majority of your time reflect the life you wanted to live? To be remembered by?

Just wondering...

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