Is anyone else a creature of habit when it comes to reading the newspaper? I don’t mean that you read it but, rather, how you read it.
I’ve been reading The Washington Post every day for 27 years and still read it in print. First the Business Section, then Metro, followed by the main section and, for dessert, Style. On Tuesdays, the Health section comes first; Wednesdays it’s Food. The Crossword page gets torn out, folded in quarters and filed chronologically in a bedside folder for later enjoyment.
Recently, when honey they shrunk my paper, Business was folded into the main section. And it just isn’t the same.
During my years as a corporate lobbyist, the Business section was everything. All stories high tech and financial, where I focused, were to be devoured and responded to as part of a day’s work. That’s why it still comes first–old habits die hard. Mondays were especially fun in those days, when the announcements ran—and still do—about major players changing jobs around town. It used to be that I knew about 75 percent of the movers and shakers whose names and job changes appeared in this feature.
These days, I recognize more names in the obituaries than I do in Washington Business.
I’m not kidding. At least once a week, I see a familiar name or face in the obits.
When I started reading the death section years ago, my parents (Mom lives out of town; Dad travels a lot) appreciated my letting them know when a family friend or neighbor had died. More and more, my own contemporaries are making appearances in the back of the Metro section.
But even when they aren’t my acquaintances, I have come to really enjoy reading obituaries. This might sound twisted, but I also enjoy attending funerals. Please don’t get me wrong. I grieve the losses of my loved ones as deeply as anyone. But I appreciate the words that are written and spoken, and the music played, when they pass.
It is hard to sum up one’s life in mere words. The fact is, the words that are chosen, and they way they are put together in final tribute, are an art.
To me, the most interesting obituaries typically include an unusual profession coupled with an odd or obscure hobby, musical talent or second language. While the heading might read “Church Member,” we may learn that the deceased also made a mean pound cake or could whistle Bach’s Fugue in G Minor.
It’s hard, when reading the obits, not to wonder what will be written about oneself after passing. It makes me approach my life a little more conscious of what might be said about me when I’m gone.
Chances are, when I go, I’ll leave my own write-up behind.