Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why obituaries matter...the final story

Once upon a time, death notices were handed off to the least senior reporter. A learning experience they were told. Hell, for all I know, that's still the case. When I first started with the media 35 years ago at WLSV-AM radio in Wellsville, we read obits at 12:15 p.m. I was a 'kid' and didn't get it. Why, I thought, am I reading this? I mean, I was all about breaking news, fires, arrests...action. What an idiot.
Three and a half decades later, I consider posting obituaries as one of my most important duties. An obit is a persons final statement. A commentary to former boyfriends, girlfriends and others about what your life achieved. It's a chance to share with the world just what you accomplished. All are amazing, despite the length. Then there are those too young to have complied a laundry list of accomplishments. Those are tough.
A few weeks ago, I ran in to an acquaintance who read a posted obit. The man, age 83 said, while referring to the death notice..."I worked with that man...I never knew he did 'that.'" This man added, "I wish I had known those would have made a difference."
An obituary is our final statement to the world. It says we mattered, that we existed.
Today, I take obits very seriously. Today, I 'get it.'
I beat myself up when I make an error with an obit. I do my best to immediately correct.
On Wednesday, I stood by Brian Quinn of the Daily Reporter as we snapped pictures as "Lenny" Lewis of Wellsville was laid to rest. The Patriot Guard Riders of NY were there. Members of the American Legion were there, as were members of the VFW.
It's pretty clear to me that as I age, my priorities have changed. What didn't matter at age 20, now very much matter.
Obituaries are an important story. It not only tells how a person died, but more importantly how they lived.
I welcome obituaries from funeral homes. Some send them. Other don't. I wish they all did.
Obituaries matter. It's the final word.