(Installation by RD)
Nothing like turning to the Obits page of the newspaper and seeing the listing for someone one’s known in the past. The vibrations are slight for those further away from one, but increase and resonate when it’s someone you’ve personally hobnobbed with or been briefly close to.
For the latter, I’ve taken to weighing in on their memorial pages set up by family and funeral homes. I usually mention unique and special qualities of the people that evoke their presence which help remind readers and family of the presence of the deceased. Sometimes I mention things that many other contributors miss or things the families may not have known. I believe the totality of a person’s life is made up of many sides, many episodes, many moments, and characteristics. (Much as in Citizen Kane).
When it comes down to it, it is the small details and minutiae that often signify and resonate as to the essence or nature of a given person and his or her life. It is easy to say so-and-so was a good or kind person, but it is frequently more meaningful or powerful to recall a specific moment that maybe only you remember.
Stranger still, when reading obits, is the experience of seeing your own name in the obits, which gets you wondering about the deceased and his or her life, how it compares/compared with your own. This, of course, is a reminder of your own destined mortality. How long did the deceased live? Was it a natural, accidental, or serious illness death? The questions naturally arise and briefly put one in a different mental space.
So whose funeral or celebration of life would you go to? Who mattered the most to you; who would cause you to take action to attend their service? Who would you be willing to speak about or eulogize if asked? Deaths of familiar or close people calls for a response and invites participation on some level. (“Because I am involved in mankind”–Donne)
Death is with us all the way from birth to death, as I have written about before in this blog. It is a parallel world co-existing with whatever lives we have and whatever living we manage to eke out. For many people, that fact often only becomes apparent when there is a death of a friend or family member. It is then that Death forces us to realize that it has been there all along waiting for each one of us.
But as I’ve said above, we can choose our responses and do right by the deceased, and honour the presence and lives of those whose number has suddenly come up in the rotation. And we each need to resolve and finalize our own unique connections with these individual beings, to say Goodbye in our own personally chosen ways.