Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I see dead people...



Something odd happened yesterday. In fact, for as long as I have been doing this particular activity (about 22 years), it has only happened twice - both times in the past year.

I read obituaries.

It started when I was in my mid-20s. I worked with a lot of old guys and they had the unfortunate tendency to die rather suddenly. As the keeper of attendance records and leave reports, I didn't always know when a string of sick days would suddenly turn into a listing in the newspaper, so I began following the obituaries on a daily basis. Every now and then it was my first indication that someone wasn't going to be coming back to work.

These days, I read them out of interest. I notice things like clumps of ages. There are days when everyone listed is in their 30s or their 90s. Once in while every decade is accounted for, including the 100+ gang.

The baby obits make me cry. The mid-life ones make me take stock of my own health. The elderly are the most interesting because you can glean a short history lesson from many of them.

I wonder at the short ones that just announce the death. Did no one know this person? How could a person go through life and not have more than a couple of sentences to describe it? Or were they intensely private and felt like their life and death were none of the world's business?

Most obituaries tell you something. Who the person was married to. Children. Relatives. Who died before them. What they did for a living. What their favorite pasttimes were. They are characters in their own stories.

And names! The names are marvelous. Especially the older ones. Recently I came across a woman named "Verble". There have been "Madies", "Annalees", "Marvelas" and a host of other names that could be a writer's dream when blocked for inspiration.

But yesterday? There were no obituaries. Not a one. The first time it happened, I thought there had been a mistake, but now it's happened twice this year. Could there really be days when no one dies?

8 comments:

nikki said...

My mom is an avid obit reader too. When you know so many people, some times it the only way to keep track. I doubt there are days when no one dies, but just days people don't pay to put the obits in.

Lisa said...

That is a lovely thought, one I hope is true!

Sandy said...

There is a newspaper that I read every Wednesday, just for the obits. A family member lives in the town, which only has a weekly newspaper. So every Wednesday, I read the paper online and then call my child and say, "it's Wednesday and ......'s not dead." Kind of an odd little tradition, but it's ours.

WeeeSplat said...

Even Death needs a break once in a while.

Kaytabug said...

Holy cow this was deep!!

Babzy said...

Interesting hobby, Sayre.

karisma said...

I used to read them too along with the births. You come across many interesting names that way.

Im sure people still died on that day, they just did not make it to the paper yet.

Diane said...

I always read them too. I love the tribute page it shows old pictures of the people when they where young and some of their stories. It is totally interesting