My mother used to read the Obits every single morning. Never missed. When she saw a familiar name, she’d get on the phone and call my aunts and my grandmother. Sometimes, even friends who knew the deceased. I can still hear the conversations, all these years later.
It drove me insane. I used to tell her it was macabre. Ghoulish. Gross. A miserable start to an otherwise nice day. It almost felt like prying, because for the most part she didn’t even know who these people were.
And then she’d tell me it was important. “I have to know”, she’d always say, “so I can send a sympathy
card or a donation or go to the funeral or the shiva (the week-long mourning period observed by Jews).
Of course she didn’t draw the line at death announcements. She also read all the engagement, wedding and birth announcements. And then the phone calls would start again.
“Guess who’s getting married, guess who had a baby, guess who died.” My mother, the town crier. It was a running battle/joke between us.
Now I’m doing the same thing. Well, we don’t have wedding announcements in our daily newspapers anymore. At least not in the one I read. But I do read them in the Sunday New York Times. Why, God only knows. What are the chances I’m gonna know any of those people?
Slim and nil.
I still do it, though. Silly, isn’t it.
But it’s the Obits, I’m referring to. Just like my mother, I read them every morning. I started doing it after she died. Until then if there was anything I needed to know, she told me.
Funny how now, all of a sudden, I understand what she was talking about all those years ago. It seems, without my noticing, I am now ‘of an age’ where people I know are losing parents, siblings, spouses and, in some cases, they’re dying themselves. Albeit too soon, but nonetheless, it’s information I have to know, so I can acknowledge it. Sorry, Ma, I get it now. And just imagine how awful I would have felt if I hadn’t known about my cousin’s father and hadn’t, therefore, been able to extend my sympathy.
Wouldn’t have been very nice, to be honest.
Only difference between me and my mother is, I don’t immediately call everyone I know. Although in the case of my cousin’s father I did text a cousin of mine, to let her know. See. It is important to read the damn notices.
All of which has gotten me thinking. Our lives, or at least the major milestones in our lives, are reduced to 5 or 6-line notices in our local newspapers — sometimes with a photo and sometimes without. When we’re born. When we become engaged. When we get married. When we die.
A series of black and white clippings that tell the world we were here.
We are. We were. We are no more.
That’s what it’s reduced to.
Because now we have status updates on Facebook. Where we can report and share every second of our lives. Even those, quite frankly, we’d be much better off keeping to ourselves. Which is a whole other conversation. Or blog post.
So what about you? Are you also a closet announcement notice reader, who’s ready to join me in the confessional?