Maybe the obit obsession, like arthritis or cataracts, is an inevitable condition of old age.
When I was a little kid, I watched my grandma read the obituaries in the San Antonio Light. It was the first section of the paper she opened, I think. Likewise, my parents became death watchers doing a cursory glance at the front page before lighting onto the index and page number where the obits would be found.
I’m not there yet, but I have found that my stroll through the Corpus Christi Caller stops dead (unfortunate choice of words) when I see the obituaries. I generally check to make sure there’s nobody I know and then do a quick check to see the ages of the dead people. My mortality gets jilted awake when I see someone under 50 died.
I would like there to be a cause of death listed when it’s a young person. I used to think it was morbid curiousity and it was at one time. Having lost my son when he was only 20, I think it would be nice to just let people know up front what happened. I found that the hardest question that I had to answer was the compulsory conversation starter: “How did it happen?” Always asked in a too sweet tone, it made me want to start shrieking. Putting it in the obituary would avoid that dumb question.
As a member of a 12 step (anonymous at the level of press) program, I like seeing a photo of the deceased. It lets me know that John S. who has been sitting next to me for 3 years at meetings is really John Smith and I can respond accordingly.
Did you know that some famous people have been memorialized prematurely? A newspaper published a premature obituary about Albert Nobel calling him a “merchant of death” which might have caused him to start the Nobel prize.
Ben Franklin said, “I wake up every morning at nine and grab the morning paper. Then I look at the obituary page. If my name is not on it, I get up.”
Marcus Garvey, the black nationalist, died when he saw HIS premature obituary.
That might be a good reason to lose the obit obsession.