I was cleaning out a closet that hadn’t been touched in years and I came across an old newspaper. Curious, I opened it up to see what would’ve been so relevant years ago that prompted my husband to keep it (he’s the hoarder, not me) I looked through the headlines searching for something of significance (ok, actually, I was just looking for the crossword puzzle) and came upon the obituaries. I’m always curious to read about how the loved ones sum up the lives of those who pass so I stopped to scan the write ups. It’s difficult to read about those who die young, leaving too much behind that is unfinished but I have to acknowledge that we all have our path to walk, and for some that includes an early exit from this world.
I was impressed by one obituary that filled nearly half the page. (that ain’t cheap) I was particularly struck by the phrase, “The family are grief stricken by the sudden passing of ‘Jane Doe’, at the age of 96” , and went on to list her surviving family, often referencing their ‘tragic loss’. Wow, really? ‘Suddenly’,,,, at 96? Exactly how long did they think she should live? I get that these are written from emotion, but let’s get some perspective here. If one manages to survive 96 years on this planet, that in itself is an accomplishment and I would think they’d focus on the celebration of her existence rather than the ‘tragic loss’. And how ‘sudden’ could a death be at 96? (she’s had 95 years to get ready) The obituary said she’d been a resident of the same nursing home for the past 22 years . (Bet that was how she’d planned to play out her life, frittering away in a nursing home) She’d probably prayed for death for the last 10.
Now I’m not discounting the family’s need to sing her praises to the world one last time, but this particular write up focused more on the ‘tragic loss’ to our world. Maybe I’m too pragmatic to be objective on this subject but let’s gain some perspective here. Anyone who makes it to 96 is ripe and ready for the taking. That’s why our bodies deplete folks. It’s check out time.
You want to make the world weep, tell me about the 36 year old man who succumbed to cancer leaving a young family behind. Or the 11 year old boy who’d drowned. Even the 64 year old who’d dropped dead from a heart attack 2 weeks after retiring. Now that’s a ‘tragic loss’ because these individuals still had so much to bring to this world! But a 96 year old who’s been frittering away in a nursing home for the past 22 years, surely she was ready to go? (what could she possibly cling to here that would make her want to stay?) There’s nothing sudden or unexpected there. That she lived a full life for close to 100 years is a gift, one that should be celebrated, not mourned.
I suppose at the end of the day it’s unreasonable for me to expect people to ‘keep their perspective’ when it comes to the death of a loved one because emotion factors in so greatly. I’ll tell you one thing though, I’m going to have a chat with my kids cause if I live to be into my nineties I will have done everything I planned in my life. And whatever I didn’t accomplish in my time here couldn’t have mattered enough or I would’ve done it. Keep my obituary short and sweet, don’t dwell on the ‘worlds’ loss’, (i.e. no mushy stuff) and make sure I have my teeth in for the visitation.