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Finding life in the obits

  • 30 July 2017


I read the obituaries every Sunday. I'm not sure how I developed this morbid fascination with the recently deceased. Maybe as a writer I enjoy the stories people leave behind.

I think too, that in this day and age of fake news, angry politics and instant, relentless, incessant streams of information and 'advice', the obits offer a slice of realism, a chance for me to read about people who can no longer influence or sway my opinion by way of their social media posts. One small headshot and a two inch long bio. That is all that remains of us in the end.

You might think that perusing the obituaries every Sunday would be a depressing, macabre meditation, but for me, it's quite the opposite. It's invigorating. It's energising. It renews my faith in humanity.

The obits offer up the real inhabitants of our world — our neighbours and bosses, our friends and partners, our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents. Death is incredibly inclusive and unfussy: coal-miners, fishermen, teachers and rabbis, executive secretaries and restaurant managers. A high school senior. A second grader who loved to fly kites.

These people are not the airbrushed celebrities, political blowhards or violent predators that often adorn the front pages of the social media platforms by which we ingest news these days. The obituaries do not promote fear, anxiety or frustration. They do not ask us to donate, cast a vote or click. We do not have to like or share.

Real people living real lives. That is what the obits can offer. A snapshot of reality; a cross-section of where we are as a human race. And if last Sunday's Obituary page is any indicator of the kind of planet we have built, I have terrific hope for humanity. I mean, listen to these:

Adele was a strong mother, practical, clear-minded, and devoted to her family. In retirement Adele tutored students, trained teachers, drove for Meals on Wheels, worked for the Children's Consortium, and supported numerous musical organisations.

Ed enjoyed taking long walks with his beloved dog, Maggie.


"Real people who make up this world are lovers of puzzles and dancing, mothers who pay their way through college, religious leaders who work in hospitals, gardeners who bake homemade cinnamon rolls."


The list goes on. Joe donated his eyes to the Eye Bank.

Forest was a man always guided by his religious faith, an ordinary man who gave extraordinary effort.

Charles was devoted to his wife