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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reading the obits


It's a daily ritual for most elderly people to read obituaries (obits) and funeral notices in the morning newspaper. Those who are native of the city or town whose newspaper they read are almost guaranteed a regular find, a discovery that an old school classmate, long-lost acquaintance, or friend of the family has gone to greener pastures.

Middle-age men like me read them too, each morning come rain or shine.

No longer a subscriber to my local newspaper, I now get my news by reading an online version on the internet each morning. It's a much more abbreviated reading than the days in which I "read the paper", but it gets the job done and is fast. There's a predictable order I follow in my cyberspace read. First I start with the local news, then sports, then business, then politics, and finally the obits and funeral notices.

Scanning the obits and notices in a flurry, I remind myself of how my wife shops for a dress at a bargain department store as she moves the dresses quickly from left to right on the rack from which they hang, except I scan from top to bottom in alphabetical order. Just like her, I am looking for a find, something I can call my own, the name of someone I knew. And like her, sometimes I come up empty and other times I make a find.

Last week I had a find when the name of Larry O appeared. Larry O had passed away at the too-young-to-be-true age of 52 years. We ran around together in our middle school years until our paths changed directions. Larry O carried a big cross in his life called addiction and it took a big toll on him and his family. He struggled most of his adult life and was finally conquering his demons and figuring things out right before he died. I had a chance to talk to his siblings and an adult son at his service, to share with them the Larry O I knew, and tell them I would be praying for them. It made me feel good and hopefully it did them too. Rest in peace Larry O until we meet again.

Reading the obits and funeral notices is something I like to do. Probably because it takes me down memory lane, a time when life seemed simpler and more youthful. But it also is a stark reminder that with each breath of life I take is one less breath left in my life, the reality than I'll eventually get my turn just like Larry O.

And that is good because it keeps me honest, to not take life for granted, nor the lives of anyone else. To be the best I can today, tomorrow, and each and every day for the rest of my life. It does me so much good that I'll keep doing it - spending each morning reading the obits.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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