Visiting With The Dead

     Death is one of the great mysteries. It’s surrounded by theology, theory, speculation and emotion. There are deaths that are thought to be a blessing, a release from a life full of sorrow and pain. There are deaths that mark the end of lives cut short through brutality, chance or mistake in such a way that none can deny the tragedy. There are deaths that are the natural destination of the journey reached at last. Death is the universal leveler. It shows no favouritism or mercy for that matter. Young or old, rich or poor, we are all equal in the eyes of Atropos as she cuts the thread of each life.

     For centuries the living have memorialized those passed on through monuments, rites and celebrations. To that end tombstones, national holidays, scholarships, bursaries, schools and streets, bridges and hospitals all carry the names of those who have made their mark on this world, large or small. Stories are told, books are written and names are passed down from generation to generation. General philosophy holds that this phenomenon is for the dead but it is in fact performed by and for the living.

    

     Almost everyday the dead come and we visit. I don’t mean the ghosts that live here…they never leave. My guests come with the arrival of the daily paper. Sometimes their entire lives are laid out for me to see and those are usually the ones who are the most welcome.

     The obituary section of the paper is divided into two parts. The first is a small box that lists the basic details of name, age and date of passing. The second part lists the full entry, complete with most of the details pertaining to the passing and if one is lucky the story of the life lived before. Please don’t think I’m a morbid person. I don’t read the obituaries because I take joy in the misery of mankind. A passing of any kind holds tragedy and the death of any child in particular can bring me to tears. That being said, a full life memorialized in an obituary is like a good book thoroughly enjoyed. One is sad to see the end of it but thankful that someone took the time to lovingly craft the contents and then share them with the world.

     The obituary of a life well lived and beautifully eulogized is a testimony not only to the dearly departed but to those he or she has left behind. Although it records the death, it reaffirms the life and vision of the protagonist. The names listed, family and friends now left behind or sometimes gone ahead gives evidence to the world of the love both given and received. The mention of hobbies, travels, accomplishments or associations tells a tale of time not just spent but wrung dry of everything it could offer. It may seem odd to seek light where dark is thought to reign but an obituary can be one of the best illustrations of life affirmation to be found. It is the lives of the departed that these notices celebrate, not their deaths. It is proof concrete that despite sorrow and loss someone remembers. It is through those memories that a life, though ended, will continue on as a foundation for those who follow. 

     One of my favourite obituaries was published last year. It wasn’t very long but it didn’t need to be. The usual information was included but at the end, in lieu of flowers, mourners were asked to add to a garden or send some to a friend. There was a picture included of the deceased. His head was thrown back as his image was caught in mid laughter while he held the hand of a beautiful smiling woman. Although William, or Bill as he was referred to in the notice, was a stranger to me that one shining moment spoke to my heart in a beautiful tribute. In that captured image there were no questions, no mysteries, no tears.

     I’m not without reservations; I know that all lives hold some part of those things as well as tedium, insecurity and sorrows. But the course of a life is not defined by the bumps along the way but by the path we open up as we move through the wilderness. I think that Bill’s path was mossy, cobbled and garden lined, full of bird song and a sun so bright the occasional cloud could never linger long. That image, chosen by his children, represents what he engendered and left behind as his legacy. He left love, laughter, flowers and healing. What more can you ask of a man or his life?

 

When I can, I visit with the dead. It helps to remind me what living should be about.

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20 thoughts on “Visiting With The Dead

  1. i like to know about people\’s lives as well. this is gonna sound insane but i think everyone (or everyone who chooses to) should keep a diary, or a blog, and when they die this should be attached to their tombstone in some sort of a weather-proof bag, and you can go to the cemetary and read people\’s lives if you want. i got that idea from the book \’satan burger\’.

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  2. We live in a small town. Often I am astounded when reading about so and so\’s life and accomplishments when I only knew them as just another nice elderly person.

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  3. Hi,thanks for stopping by and checking out my site,it still needs a lot of work I know.A little pebble soon makes a big ripple though,lol.Thanks for letting me know about the guestbook.I put one of those free ones on for now untill I figure out how to make my own.It will have to do. I too sometimes scan the obits,just to be sure I;m not in there,lol.Its good to read about a strangers life to see what he was or what mark he left on this world,whether it was left on the world as a whole or just family and friends.And yes it reminds me that life is indeed short and I need to make lots more hay while the sun is still shining on my life. Anyhoooo,thanks again for dropping by.Later…

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  4. Now that I am retired I have been reading the obits lately. I am shocked how nothing is ever really written about the deceased person.

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  5. What an uncommonly wonderful way to see the obit sections. I always look with dread, incase i know the persons who have passed on, and living in such a small town as i do, It is very likely indeed. I will now start to look with YOUR attitude, instead of worry and dread.Have a good start to your weekend. Many hugs Silent

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  6. My first research paper in college was about death (I was fascinated with the subject) – I\’m sure it was very good, I got an A+. I compared the death rituals of Americans to Australian Aborigines…and then killed the rest of my brain cells with beer. See, guess you should have known me then 🙂

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  7. I really wish that I knew someone who was a publisher or something that I could read what you write. Have you ever considered writing a book??. Because I have and I cant write lol, you have a serious talent for it, and I think you should do it. Also it would give you some extra money that you could use towards your son\’s hockey equipment, because we all know that stuff aint cheap…lol.I have just given up on rice, one day i\’ll learn but for now i\’m running out of pots that I somehow havent burnt rice in.KissesAmanda

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  8. Hey – I just read your comment on my sister\’s blog for Sept 17.YES! Thats the movie: The Tao of Steve! It was based on the life and pickup skills of this guy, Duncan North, who Donal Logue represented as Dex. It was Awesome, thanks for reminding me!

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  9. I just saw the comment u posted on my site today. Thanks for the encouragement. I kind of needed it, specially today. Death is fascinating indeed. I truly enjoyed reading ur blog for today.

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  10. "When I can, I visit with the dead. It helps to remind me what living should be about." I think that was the perfect end to your blog…visiting, or even thinking about the dead is very bittersweet…

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  11. mmm, that\’s a good post. timely for me, too, because i was just thinking about this on my walk last night. i went to a "lake" in des moines with a footbridge. along the footbridge, people have paid to lay a memorial plaque engraved with a loved one\’s name "In Memory Of" along the railings. and i was thinking about the whole idea of our memorials — tombstones and such — and is it just a way for survivors to hold on to them and try to make them immortal. and we mark time after a death (and many other things) … it\’s been a week…it\’s been 1 month … at this time 6 months ago … at this time last year … and time almost becomes a physical distance. like that person gets farther and farther away.i also read the obituaries every morning. two years ago, living in another town, i did not have a subscription to the newspaper. but my neighbor delivered them. one morning, i had one at my door. i opened it up to find that a guy i had dated casually a couple of years back had died in a motorcycle accident. it was strange that THAT was the morning my neighbor chose to leave me one of his extra papers. call me crazy, but i kind of interpreted it as kevin\’s (the guy who died) way of letting me know, "hey, i died."this is a long comment. well, death is something i think about a lot. hmm…p

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  12. This is a very interesting blog……..you have an incredible point of view…….It is very beautiful writing…..While I am here I also wanted to say thank you very much for your words left on my page while my daughter was ill….She is recovering well and I hope that she will return to her normal cheeky self within the weekxoxoxxo

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  13. Just wanted to say hi de hi…. Sending luv.. Cindy x…♥(¨`•.•´¨)♥♥.`•.¸(¨`•.•´¨) ♥♥ .. .. `•.¸.•.´ ♥Giving hugs… ♥{~._.~}♥♥♥ ( Y )♥♥♥♥()~*~()♥♥♥♥(_)-(_)♥♥

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  14. Interesting hobby Lorna. 🙂 You make a compelling sales pitch. I\’ll have to pick up a copy of the obits sometime this week. Take care.

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  15. @AimskyIf you haven\’t already, you definitely need to see "Reframed" …it\’s an interesting twist on your idea.@RuthIt is amazing what mysteries often lie behind a "common" exterior. ;)@RobertI\’m looking forward to "checking out" the ripples from your web efforts. Life definitely seems a lot shorter the longer I hang around. =)@CherylNot every obit shows the true "value" of the life lived. I am always impressed when a loved one takes the effort to memorialize the individual\’s life and not the death. The death is just the epilogue…it is the life that really is the story.@IAMCDN1979 Come back anytime =)@SilentAs I hit mid life (hopefully no crisis is in sight) I find that I\’m starting to look for inspiration as to how a life should be lived. I am amazed that I\’ve found a source of inspiration in the obits…go figure!@IndigoSorry about your brain cells…was there a notice posted?;PL@ToadWell let me know if your number comes up. I\’ll send flowers or a request for funds depending on the appropriate page reference.@AmandaRice is probably highly over rated. I\’m sure you could live without it. lolI\’d like to write a book but it would be in the hopes that it could finance my studio so I don\’t know if that is the right sort of motivation. Creating is the easy part or so it seems to me…the business end is where I could use some help. I think most people are in the same situation.xxL

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  16. @The Evilest Of StitchesThat is the coolest of movies. Hail all Steves!@Stitchy\’s SisterHang in there…tomorrow is another day. Death waits for us all (ooooooOOOOOooooo) so I think everybody has a vested interest. ;P@MalikaIt is true. It seems to make everything more urgent knowing that our time is finite. There is so much potential but for both sides of the spectrum.@PatresaThe whole newspaper on that particular day…coincidence? I don\’t think so. The human race as a whole does celebrate a "cult of death" with a rigid set of rules and regulations determined by individual societies. I wonder if it\’s the egocentric nature of humans that creates a need to continue on in someway hence the universal practice of that cult.

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  17. @K@tWom@nI\’m so glad that your daughter is feeling better. =) I\’m sure she\’ll be back to her "old" (lol) self in no time.@CindyThanks for stopping by. I hope you had a good weekend.@SimonPerspective is always a welcome frame for the day-to-day pressures of life. The obits has that in spades. It\’s not for everyone but you never know…you might like. Do you remember that old Life cereal commercial with Mikey?…I suddenly see Mikey with the obits. How wrong is that? lolOh well;pTake care.L

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  18. I agree with this, and I too read the obituary section in the news paper on a regular basis. I remember keeping one of a stranger for the reasons you wrote here. I was so amazed by her life that I kept it for my scrapbook. Anyway, take care.

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