Search Box

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reading the obituaries

This post will, I promise, mark the end of this blog's temporary flirtation with the subject of death.

Why read the obituaries?

There's something about reading the obituaries, and seeing someone's life encapsulated in a few paragraphs, that gives you a sense of perspective and makes your own problems seem small. (Is it possible to talk about death without resorting to the hoariest of cliches?)

Reading an obituary can allow you to relive certain eras. It can bring back memories. It can make you ponder how various people have their fifteen minutes, and then fade back into obscurity. It's always a little bittersweet to be reminded of the role of chance and circumstance in one's life. It's near impossible to read a famous person's obituary without hearing about a lucky break they got, as well as perhaps some unlucky ones.

When reading of the death of someone younger than you, there is a mild ghoulish satisfaction to be had in the thought that you have outlived them. On the other hand, most of us know perfectly well that our own deaths will not rate an obituary in the Times, so a vague sense of disgruntlement may also intrude.

The obits can leave you feeling sentimental and philosophical and occasionally even admiring. It's not an altogether unpleasant feeling. Sometimes the obits can even inspire you to want to do something. The feeling usually passes fairly quickly, but at least it's there for a brief while.

Sorta like us.

No comments: