Friday, May 18, 2012

Life on Page 6B

I'm not a morbid person in general. I don't watch scary movies and commercials for crime TV shows leave me reaching for the remote and changing the channel. Blood, guts and gore don't appeal to me.
On the other hand, I do enjoy reading the obituaries. I would venture to guess that this little quirk isn't unique to just me. Someone else must be out there turning to page 6B. After all, there is something inspiring about obituaries.
They aren't about death, they are about life.
Each time I purchase a newspaper I jump over most sections. I scan the major headlines. If I have been watching the news I'm usually already up to date on the articles' contents. Then I jump to letters to the editor and opinion columns. Sometimes I can stomach what the readers and columnists have to say, sometimes I can't. I have my beliefs and there are times when people with opposing opinions drive me up a wall. My tolerance level varies. After I get my fill of this section I jump to the business section where I read advice columns. Whether or not I agree with the "wisdom" of the writer I read every word. I would secretly (or not so secretly) love to be an advice columnist. My credentials for the position? Pshh, I'm the wise one, just ask my parents. No more experience needed. I was born for such a career. When I was three my parents referred to me as the wise one and I've been thrilled to flaunt that title every since - in a joking manner, of course.
After advice comes obituaries. This is where I focus most of my time. Each person's life conveys something unique. Even the shortest of obituaries tells a story and gives a peek into the world of a person who has seen their first and last days. To someone who is young and, by the grace of God, has many days ahead these are little life lessons. To the old they can serve the same purpose.
In this life we rarely share with people the profound impact they have on us or the special place they hold in our lives. In obituaries, the good deeds, accomplishments and character of the deceased is given its moment of recognition and honor.
What strikes me in each newspaper is how much some people do in one life. I don't know how some of these people would have found time to sleep, let alone enjoy family and friends which they all seemed to have done. I once read an obituary with a whole column of committees, community outreach, volunteering commitments, board member positions and jobs for one person. This woman had also raised a few children, been married to one man her whole life and was an active part of her church. I don't know how she fit all of it into one life.
The two column obits leave me stunned for all the living one person can fit into one life. They inspire me to do more. Whether or not I follow through is sketchy, but for the moment a fire is lit within me. At the end of life, what can you say you accomplished? These lives show that it isn't what you gathered but what you gave that lasts. Time and love stand the test of time. Their obituaries prove it.
Other obituaries catch my eye because they are short and vague. Today's paper had an obituary for a 39 year old woman. The obituary didn't go into awards or prestige, just her ordinary day to day life that she so enjoyed. She worked for the VA and loved the work that gave her the opportunity to help others. She loved her friends and family deeply. But it was the next line that really hit me. "Her strong faith in God, her kindness, and unconditional love for others was an inspiration to all that knew her." Wow. That is a legacy worth aspiring to.
Her life wasn't based on a big fancy career with a high paying check and prominent status in the community. She didn't sit on a school board or high ranking committee. But that didn't stop her from impacting people and showing her spirit. She had what most would call a "normal" life but she obviously lived it in a way that made her more than ordinary. She did it with a heart that would live long past the day she took her last breath.
After reading about this young woman I didn't want to read any more obituaries. Her life hit me for how short it was but how heartfelt she must have led it. I'll never know what ended her life on this earth so soon, but there is no doubt from the faith she displayed that she is in a better place.
The words written about her life go to show that sometimes it is the simple things in life that can make the greatest impact. A life well lived. A job worked with honesty. A humble spirit. Relationships nurtured and cherished. An open and friendly smile.
They may not be the key points of a resume, but the character and spirit of the individual is what makes a life legacy worth sharing. That is the life worth aspiring to.
When I read an obituary I am reminded of the life I want to live. We are never guaranteed another day. Today might be our last. How should we spend it? What do we want written about us when we're gone? Live that life. Don't let it pass you by. Each day you are writing your obituary. Make it count.

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