Remembering Over Reinventing: Obituaries and the Unnamed
As we creep closer to sliding into our graves, we cannot help but look back over the arc of our lives and be tempted to wonder what is and what might have been. There’s no regret in the ongoing evaluation of who we are and what we intended to become.
I always found it odd, and a little off-putting, growing up as a child in the Midwest, and having the older folks around me scan the obituaries page in the daily newspaper.
Looking for deaths — sometimes with both hope and regret — was maudlin and a little frightening to me, but the obit page was the final period on the end of a single image forged in sweat and hope against an impending darkness. You were okay to be forgotten as long as the descriptive bits of you found final ink on a page.
Now that I live in the New York City area, and moved by both time and tide, I cannot help but be driven by my Midwestern DNA to scan the obituaries page of the New York Times. It’s a wildly different experience reading the East Coast death roll call because these were the famous, and the infamous, and we are expected to remember them longer than the same sort of dead friends reported from the farmlands and valleys of the regular clarion — but we won’t.
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