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Monday, December 14, 2009

2 Obituaries

I admit it -- When I have time to read them, I find the newspaper's obituaries section a keen source of interest and imagination. The short encapsulations of someone's life can be poignant, and I often wonder about what isn't said -- what the person thought about the places he had lived, or what he was most proud of, or what he would say if he could make one final statement to his dearest ones. What happens to those he leaves behind? Often the cause of death is not listed, and especially for someone young, I have questions. If donations in lieu of flowers are requested for the American Cancer Society, for example, I can make a shrewd guess. Still, I wonder what the person thought, and how he coped with such a scary diagnosis. If an accidental death, I wonder what the person might have done differently if told that the grim reaper had an appointment with him on a highway next Tuesday...

Last week I scanned the obituaries at my parents' house. At the bottom of the page were two memorial statements: two men who had died on that date in a different year (one 35 years old in 1979, one 56 years old in 1984). The difference in the statements struck me.

The first one, for the 35 year old man, was from a woman who talked to him like a friend: "I miss you, but am looking forward to seeing you soon..." She talked about how she'd found Christ from his example, and how she smiled to think of him in Jesus' presence, and wondered if he sang his goofy songs to the Lord. It was so hopeful, and made me smile.

The second one, for the 56 year old man, was restrained. "We miss you so much. We visit your grave, but there is nothing left of you..."

Hope. Hopeless.

I wondered about how these two men might have seemed if I'd met them. The first one sounded as if he'd been on fire for the Lord, quoting verses and doing silly magic tricks for kids, whose purpose was to point to God. The second man had a restrained family. He might have been restrained too, working hard, quietly living his life, quietly dying and being buried in a respectable plot at the corner cemetery. Maybe the family had put a cross on the gravestone, maybe not. The family even now quietly despaired his loss.

What are you living for? And when Death comes for you, when it is your time, how will you respond?


Jane Lebak said...

I used to read the obits after Emily died. It felt less alone knowing there were other people grieving, and I'd pray for them.

For the second guy, you don't know he himself didn't have a very active faith, only that the person writing the tribute didn't have one. Sometimes we don't see what's important to those we love.

If Death shows up, I'll probably offer him some cookies and ask him to wait while I tidy up a few loose ends around here. ;-) And he'll probably say NO THANKS and OH, ARE THOSE CHOCOLATE CHIP? WELL, MAYBE A COUPLE.


Andra M. said...

I'm gonna go kicking and screaming.

Either that or sleeping with a smile on my face -- while my passengers go kicking and screaming (stolen from a joke I heard a while back).

Sorry to make a joke out of it, because I truly feel for the woman who had no hope that nothing remained of her loved one in this world or the next.

At this point, it's not so much I that don't want to go home, but I have too much left to do here. Hence the kicking and screaming.