There’s been a strange turn in our local newspaper, the Arizona Republic. Let me explain. They’ve recently relocated the obituaries to the back of the sports section. Yes, that’s right. You can now check game scores while you peruse the passing of your neighbors. How convenient!
The redesign of the obits started weeks ago. First, they enlarged the photographs. I get it. You want to see the face of your loved one. But most of the photographs aren’t professionally shot. The enhanced size looks grainy. And as we older folks know, it’s hard to capture a flattering photograph. We need proper lighting and a bit of photoshopping. Aunt Gert looks as if she was caught by surprise. Uncle Milton seems to be in the middle of chewing. So why, for heaven’s sake (I had to throw that in), make the photograph larger?
By placing the obits in the sports section, is the Arizona Republic confirming that life is but a game and there are winners and losers? Is your age at the time of death the ultimate score? If you’ve reached 80, 90, or 100—have you officially won—making death the eternal booby prize? Or, are the winners determined by the length of the obituary and the scads of relatives who adored you (though they never came to visit)? Does your obit dominate the page, attracting the most attention? And if you’re dead, does any of this truly matter?
Few obits seem to provide the most interesting highlights from a life well-lived. I’m not referring to the marriages or the children or even the jobs held. Those are facts. Our lives are shaped by our challenges, hardships, and lessons learned. If you were a parent, what tips can you pass on about raising children? If you were a caretaker for an elderly parent, how did you sustain your enthusiasm? If you succeeded in business, what secrets did you learn about working with people? Just imagine what a terrific read that might be. To capture a snapshot of the living, breathing, thinking human being—and not just some vital statistics.
If I had a message to share about my life, I’d like it to go something like this:
And finally, acknowledge the inevitable. None of us are here forever. So make sure you have at least one professional photograph. Trust me. It’ll come in handy someday.
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