Sometimes I wonder about my fellow man. Okay, I wonder about myself
too, but what got me thinking was one segment of the Academy Awards last
weekend. I didn’t see much of the show personally, and I missed the
segment I enjoy most — the In Memoriam segment. You know, it’s when they
list the people from movies who died the preceding year. I always pay
close attention to that segment just so see the video clips and to
remember these folks whom the film industry considered important.
course there’s always an argument about which 30 people to include and
which to omit. Each is important to some. This year they left out Tom
Clancy whose books have been turned into some great movies, James Avery
who had made a handful of movies besides his television portrayal of
Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Cory Monteith from TV’s Glee,
but had also started a film career. They did include four people who
actually died in 2014. All deserving, but those are supposed to be in
next year’s In Memoriam segment! Anyway, I’m sorry I missed the segment
this year. Instead I got to watch Ellen Degeneres take a selfie.
But I’m not alone in enjoying the In Memoriam segment. I
talked to plenty of others who feel the same way. And so I started
wondering if we Americans have a type of obsession with death. Oh sure,
you can laugh, but I think there’s something to it. As the editor of a
local newspaper, I have the keys to see which sections and articles
people access the most at timesbulletin.com, and the obituary section is
consistently at least number two and some days hits number one on the
list of most accessed section.
The only section that ever bests
the obits is the local news. I’m sure there are more than just a few
people who roll out of bed to check the obituaries to see if they made
the list before attempting to take on the day. Many others scan to see
if anyone they know is listed. It’s almost always a tragedy when you see
a familiar name, but we keep looking. Obsession, I tell you.
was reading earlier this week about La Crosse, Wisconsin, where 96
percent of the residents have their funerals planned already.
Pre-planning is not new, but only about 50 percent nationally do it. Why
96 percent in La Crosse? One guy promoted the idea as the alternative
to making family members make horribly difficult decisions at a horribly
difficult time. It’s not a wonderful idea to leave the stressful
decisions about what to do for Dad when Dad has had a horrible accident.
So the idea caught on. Maybe this is one area where we should be
obsessed with death.
Now, at the age of 52, I have pretty much
come to terms with the high probability that I am in the second half of
my life on this side of the sod. So I understand this relationship we
all have with death. We realize the terrible tragedy that each death
truly is. We mourn for the families who are left without loved ones. We
feel the loss when we recognize one of those names in the obituaries as
an old classmate or a former co-worker. So maybe it’s not an obsession
that we have, but a need to know that even though the guy dressed in
black and carrying a scythe has caught others, we remain alive.
could be wrong. It could be that we just like to gossip and we want to
know the most personal information as soon as possible. That could be
why the obituaries are so popular, not just around Van Wert but most
More likely though is the desire we have to pay
tribute. Think about it, when a team wins the Super Bowl or the World
Series or such, the hometown will usually throw a parade to the team as a
celebration and as a tribute. Since not everyone can attend a funeral,
an obituary provides a tribute to a life for all to see and appreciate.
mention in the In Memorium segment of an awards show is a tribute. We
pay our respects to those who are no longer alongside us physically.
Heaven knows we don’t stand much of a chance of avoiding death, so
here’s to those who have gone before — saint or scoundrel alike — and
especially to those who are left to mourn.
For those are the ones
who deserve a special prayer when we recognize a name in a list of
deaths. And as we read through a list of deaths without recognizing our
own name, perhaps we can offer a prayer for ourself; a prayer of thanks
for another day of life.