Call me a fuddy-dud type of person, but I'm one of those people who prefers to read the printed version of any newspaper.
I want to hold my paper in my hand with a cup of coffee at arm's reach or spread it across the kitchen table while munching on a bowl of breakfast cereal.
There always will be skeptics out there who paint our business with a lot of doom and gloom. Our business is thriving with people clambering to get their hands on information that is important to them - whether you read it in print, on our web site, or on your mobile phone – I don’t care. Besides, we’re here to record the news that’s important to create a healthy community dialogue.
The other day someone caught me in public reading our newspaper. Not knowing who I was, they politely asked if I ever read the local obituaries.
My answer was a simple, “Yes.” Although I’m a relative newcomer to the community I read all the local obituaries. Don’t know anyone … but I read them.
One of the many things I always enjoyed doing in the newsroom was reading and editing obituaries. Of course, reading about someone’s death is sad, and that part I don’t like. But over the years, I have realized that there is another way to look at it.
An obituary is often the last and final story of a person’s life. Sometimes it is the only printed story there is of that person’s personal achievements.
And…I am amazed at what I read.
Some obituaries tell of pioneer-spirited folks who homesteaded in the area. There are stories of women who worked at home and raised large families.
Some tell of less conventional lifestyles. I recall one obituary I wrote several years ago was for a woman who didn’t marry until late in life, but held prominent jobs throughout the country and traveled extensively. She did all this in the early 1900s.
I read about war veterans, doctors, teachers, beauticians and artists. These people become real to me because they are someone’s mother, father, grandparent, brother, sister, aunt or uncle.
Some obituaries are short and some are long, but the length has no bearing on content.
Many tell stories of individual struggles, hardships and failures. They also include accomplishments, joys, proud moments and successes.
Every single obituary tells a story of life. Each life is interesting.
On occasion I know the person, but am always surprised there are things about their life that I didn’t know. Others are total strangers to me.
When reading them, I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet these people and perhaps tell their story while they were alive.
I often find myself wishing I had listened more and paid better attention to my grandfathers and grandmothers when they were alive. There have been some great story tellers in my family, and when they are gone, the stories are gone.
Before my father died, he and I sat at our family’s kitchen table and wrote his obituary. It’s where the most important conversations in our family took place. “Now you hang on to that piece of paper,” he said. “Someday your mother is going to need your help and you’ll be able to say to her … ‘Dad’s given me the details’.”
Through several company moves, I kept that yellowing piece of paper close to me. When the time came to write Dad’s obituary back in 2009, I had all the details.
So to our readers, don’t leave your family out in the dark about the stories in your life. Take the time to jot a few notes down and give them to your loved ones.
Your final story in life, I know for a fact, is as important as today’s front page news.