A highlight of my week is reading the Sunday Star-Trib on Sunday mornings. I always start with the ‘Sports’ then the front page, Minnesota section, opinion pages, and then save the Variety section’s crossword puzzles to work on later in the day and through the week.
I save the Minnesota section for after 8:00 mass. It is here that I spend nearly an hour reading obituaries. My friend Gail finds my preoccupation to be morbid . . . I find her coupon-cutting so typical of the value she places in saving money. That’s good for her and obits are good for me. I’m a writer and I’ve always been fascinated by people. How different we are as unique human beings. Consider this . . . a persons life is generally summarized in a paragraph: survivors and occupation or education consuming most of the content. A lifetime in a less than one hundred words! Did the deceased like flowers, birds, travel (places where he/she had been), outdoors, music, books and . . . a thousand other things. Yes, there are always some that cover an entire column; which sets that person apart from the hundred or more others. This morning there was a woman of 106 and a girl of 13. (The pretty young teen was diagnosed with a brain tumor thirty hours before she died. So very, very sad). I find many men in their fifties who are vets of the Vietnam War–also sad. Agent Orange is rarely mentioned but I suspect the contributing factor. Naturally, cancer is the major culprit without respect for age. Women live longer than men and married individuals longer than those who have, presumably, been divorced.
Once, over these past months, did I see the obit of a man of twenty-something that said: “Died by his own hand” and only twice a young person who died from an addiction to opioids. We all know that youth suicide and drug addiction are alarming statistics.
Recently I began the process of making a will. A reasonable thing to do at my advancing age. My children were pleased that I had finally done so as I’ve resisted doing so for years. I didn’t find it to morbid at all. It was insightful in many ways. We don’t take anything with us so we consider all of the ‘things’ we’ve accumulated in our lifetime. Often things that are special to us but of no value to anybody else. The things are the accumulation of memories and, in a very sentimental way, a part of our life’s journey. I had a special time with each of my three children walking about the house and having them make a list of what they would like to have after I’m gone. I was surprised . . . and not so surprised by each. (I know from personal experience how often surviving children become greedy and relationships become highly strained. Such was the case when my Mom died years ago).
For some time I’ve considered writing my own obituary. As a writer, I could fill the Minnesota section of the Minneapolis Trib with my life. I’ve been so very blessed by God over the years–from childhood to this Sunday morning. Friends, good times, bad times, family, interests, travel . . . I could do a page on my childhood in Riverside (West Duluth), Aurora-Hoyt Lakes high school years, working in the mines, colleges and degrees, politics, suffering a divorce, sports, these many Hibbing years . . . Yet, despite it all, the most important thing I would say is that I was a teacher for most of my adult life. As a teacher at Hibbing’s incredible high school, I touched thousands of lives in some small way. Hopefully in positive ways. Yes, more than anything I’ve done, teaching was my passion. The most challenging years of my life, however, was being a single parent to three children at young ages. I”d admit that I failed each of them in some way. Because of that experience I have always had a special place in my heart for a single parent.
Lastly, I’ll share this, I love birds and flowers and the changing colors of autumn.