I like reading obituaries. I take no pleasure in the death of another however an obituary spends little time on death, it is mostly about life. We are all given an account at birth, unevenly filled, with time. The great freedom is that we can spend from that account as we like; an obituary is a final account of our spending habits.
I like the obituaries of old people. I don’t care to read about little ones or even young adults. Our greatest generation is coming to the end of their time and the obituaries have never been better. These are stories of the American dream, people who started out plowing behind a team of oxen and grew to take us to the moon. Later generations have benefited from birth in such a lofty perch yet have not flown nearly so high.
The obituaries of the old are inspirational just in their longevity. Octogenarians are common however centenarians seem to pop up more than occasionally. These people started out life exposed to the worst that life could provide and became tough. Hard work and simple food made them healthy and surviving a variety of childhood disease tested their immune systems; these folks are a breed apart from what you see walking around today. They have enjoyed the benefits of antibiotics and other medical improvements but their bodies did not expect these helpful medications and was prepared for a life without them. Their longevity is a due, at least in part, to this set of circumstances.
I am constantly amazed at what accomplishments are revealed in an obituary. I like to read about the ladies who are described as homemakers. The children of these ladies had such a head start. They arrived at their first day of school highly socialized, with a good breakfast and a love of reading. My mom read to me until I could do it myself and it gave me such a vehicle with which to learn. I still do most of my own education through books and not from lectures. The homemakers obituary usually tells the story of a woman who made her family well-educated, well-fed and with a strong religious and morale base. They created the kind of children that could be expected to achieve and thrive and who left the house with the kind of knowledge that is now out-sourced. Their work was like a stone dropped into a pond, it radiated out and became even greater through time.
I guess maybe I started thinking about obituaries this week because it was about a year ago that my old classmate, Paul Erickson, died. Paul was one of the most accomplished and successful people I know and his obituary was a real story about a life well-lived. I guess it is one of those things that makes me want to live the kind of life that one day will will make for a good read.
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