There are good obituary days and bad obituary days. The good ones are when most of the people who pass away are 90+ with grandchildren and great grandchildren, with names of progeny spilling into the next column. On the bad obituary days the dead are in their sixties or younger. Though it is rather ghoulish, people in their sixties find themselves becoming regular obituary readers. Each is like a tiny biography, a life summed up in half a column or less. Sometimes there’s a smiling photo of the person in happier times or younger days. There is rarely a glowering photo. We inadvertently measure our own lives against theirs, sad for them and their families, but glad that we still have time to mend our ways, vowing not to fritter away the days, months and years we may have left.
In a column he wrote in the NY Times several years ago, David Brooks asserted that baby boomers as they sense their mortality are “going to turn dying into a form of self-expression.” Hilariously, Brooks writes:
Each and every last boomer is going to strive to make his or her own death a unique and fulfilling ritual. They’re going to be taking adult education classes on the joys of dying well. They’ll have brunch discussions about what music should be on the stero as one drifts off into the afterlife. They’ll say things like, “I don’t want to just die, I want to claim ownership of my death,” and they’ll start bying self-actualizing books with titles like, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Dead People.” In short, the boomers are going to take death and they’re going to turn it into a growth experience.
- A little “whistling” in sonnet form by Marilyn L. Taylor
Reading the Obituaries
Now the Barbaras have begun to die,
trailing their older sisters to the grave,
the Helens, Margies, Nans-who said goodby
just days ago, it seems, taking their leave
a step or two behind the hooded girls
who bloomed and withered with the century-
the Dorotheas, Elanors and Pearls
now swaying on the edge of memory.
Soon, soon, the scythe will sweep for Jeanne
and Angela, Patricia and Diane-
pause, and return for Karen and Christine
while Susan spends a sleepless night again.
Ah, Debra, how can you be growing old?
Jennifer, Michelle, your hands are cold.