The Obituary Lesson


The other day I listened to an On the Media radio story about the decline of the beat reporter, and one beat they covered was the obituary beat.

I struck by the realization that so many papers no longer cover obituaries, and while some papers might have an online version, families have to pay every year for a loved one’s obituary to remain posted. So, some people can be remembered, and some not.

Then I thought about how often we wait until someone is gone to say so many things. And I had an idea.

I went to Facebook,and I offered to write “obituaries for the living.” Which, I suppose, makes no sense in some ways and is morbid in other ways, but that wasn’t my intent. First, I asked who was interested. Several of my friends were. I got permission to post on their walls, and I shared my idea. I asked for my friends’ friends to share happy memories, kind words, or anything they thought the world should know about said friend.

I looked at it as a chance for people to say nice things. No heated, nasty Facebook argument. Just happy memories and compliments.

Fifteen of my friends agreed to let me write living obituaries. I planned (and still do) to write stories about them, decorate the paper, scan them, and email the finished product to each friend.

I was surprised at the silence. I asked people to share good things. I see my friends’ walls. I see they have friends. But no one posted a comment.

It’s a bit awkward to publicly ask for stories and nice things only to get silence. I felt like I’d opened a Pandora’s Box of hurt feelings.

Of the 15, I finally got a couple comments.

It’s possible people didn’t see my posts. Facebook has strange algorithms.

After one person mentioned the idea was creepy, I posted again. This time, I left out the words obituary and death. I said I was working on a gift, and I needed stories.

People replied. I got private messages and comments. The project is saved, and I hope to post more about it as I work on it. I’m learning things about my friends’ pasts and how others see them. I’ll look over their walls and come up with something.

I don’t know why exactly I want to do this. I just do.

Though I’m 45 this year, the same age my mother was when she died. And I went through cancer treatment last year. And death has filled the news this year. I mean, death is all around us every day, but this year seems especially troubled.

Anyway, if someone asked you to say something nice about someone you loved now, while that person is around to hear it, what would hold you back?

One thought on “The Obituary Lesson

  1. If I knew the person well enough to comment I certainly would. It’s a wonderful idea to have a form of living obit. so that for a change the living get to see the comments.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

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