I am guilty of it. Sunday mornings I shift through The Times, glancing over the "World News". avoiding the "Business News" and "Sports" section, and set aside "Arts & Entertainment" to read at my leisure. My favorite section: The Obituaries. Cliche? Yes. Morbid? Maybe. Entertaining? Infinitely. (And no, I am not in real estate. ) I even avoid "Weddings", because in my opinion, they are by far more depressing and shallow than the obits.
What I find intriguing about the obituaries, is how peoples' lives are squeezed into a two-column space and remembered by those they leave behind. What is most important? What goes amiss? And what if they were a truly despicable character? (You never read an obituary about how awful a person was in real-life. Somewhere a literal cleansing must occur between death and distribution, because no one wants to read about or pay homage to, a villain.)
This week we paid our respects to writer, David Foster Wallace, who at 46 hung himself in his own home. A well-deserved 4 columns of praising to his literary genius. Makes one wonder why people so intellectually advanced, are so nuts? (Do they know something the rest of the population ignores? )
Then there was yacht designer Olin J. Stephens, who died at 100, with a lifetime achievement of designing 2,200 yacht and racing boats. He only received two columns for his efforts. Bon voyage Captain!
My favorite obituary: The beloved K. Barry MD, "who died in the arms of his wife and children. May his name be a blessing". Dr. Barry only had two lines to his obituary, but it was so sincere it made me tear up. I bet he was a good man, who devoted his own life to helping others. He probably drove a Volvo, wore sweaters his wife bought him, and never missed an important event in his childrens' lives. His wife probably wrote these two lines sitting on the corner of their bed or at the kitchen table, in the dusk of a grief filled day. 20-plus years married, without ever imagining a day without her companion, her friend, her lover. A beautiful few words, in honor of their beautiful life together.
This is why I read the obituaries; because you find hope in the most peculiar of places. An obituary can be about every and nothing at the same time; an afterthought, a dear wish, a goodbye, a biography, an uplifting journey, or a characterized portrayal. Or it can be just a reminder. Because after all, you've got a hell of a lot more living to do to make the NY Time's Sunday Obituaries.