7.02.2017

Teach Your Kids to Read the Obits

I wasn't raised with many routine traditions growing up (young, single working mom), so most of my early recollections primarily revolve around my grandparents, both immigrants. 

My grandfather kept his am transistor radio on while he slept - AM, of course. He was always dressed in his best outfit (snazzy hat, vest), even while working in terrible heat. He would take lunch breaks and make us lunch. He created the first Italian newspaper in Arizona, La Italiana Tribuna, and put me on the cover one Fourth of July.

My grandmother dusted with Lemon Pledge every Saturday morning, while listening to Engelbert Humperdinck. She aired out all the pillows once a week on a clothesline, and she loved to chase a firetruck just to see what was happening nearby. She hated wearing shoes and could blend a wonderful green drink, a grasshopper.

My most lasting memory of my grandparents is an odd one: they read the obituaries in the newspaper every morning. And to this day, I read the obits on Sunday morning...every single one.

Sometimes I read them out loud to my kids, marveling at the length of someone's life, and the endeavors they filled it with, from the simple "surrounded by family and friends," or, "in lieu of flowers, please volunteer at your local food bank" to those more radical, "She was never like the other mothers," (my all-time personal favorite compliment!) and "First woman Veterinarian graduate in Washington." All hail the underappreciated pioneers!


The legacy of a life lived should be shared and celebrated for the wonder of it all: "Mr. Merchery loved sports, and collected orchids and stamps." The delightful: "Her backyard cork tree was enjoyed by all the children in the neighborhood." 
Those that persisted: "Devoted Step-Dad to William, Gabby, Colin, Marissa, and Frankie." 
"Lucille volunteered at the hospice thrift store for 23 years" and "Mrs. Amelia Hobbs knitted baby caps for preemie's in her spare time."
"The family wishes to thank his care giving angels, Toyin and Mindo."

Some obits are just down-right impressive; "Survived by his wife of 71 years" and "always completed the Sunday Times crossword puzzle in pen." Often sacrifices are recognized - "an all-star athlete with natural ability, he received an Ivy League football scholarship to college, yet, he knew that his widowed mother and younger siblings needed his income more so, and thus began his life-long career in insurance." 

Perhaps the most moving sentiment that I often take away from these reads is the melting pot that surely is us: "Japanese American internment survivor," "Helped establish the Holocaust Education program," or "Lived the American Dream as Polish immigrants." 
"Born in Lima, Peru...MBA from USC."


"Mr. Watanabe, age 95, member of the 522nd Artillery Battalion of the 442nd regimental Combat Team, passed away peacefully." 
Mr. Cochran: "Born in 1927, he started the Afro-Arts theater...influential Chicago musician."

For my obit, please borrow Mrs. Vernon's: "She was an elegant example."

What Makes a Good Life? 








Kings eat first. Leaders eat last.