Nelson Clyde's Is It Just Me: The living obituary


It might not surprise you one of the most highly read parts of this newspaper is the obituary section. Obits, as we call them in this business, are one of the great windows into the things about people we never knew while they were alive.

One day last week my friend Connie called and pointed out this notion because she had learned, upon the passing of a friend in her congregation, that he was a ranked table tennis player. Apparently, a detail that never came up before or after services.

She lamented the fact we simply don’t know people. Her solution was to create “living obituaries” in order to get to know folks better on this side of life.

In wondering about such a thing, it did call to mind the ads frequently run in this newspaper called Heroes and Friends by Tyler Junior College. While many of their subjects have passed on, others are still with us.

Connie and I discussed whether we should democratize the process and have people nominate individuals to have a living obituary.

The problem with all of this is that dead people are not prone to lie.

Let’s try that again.

They don’t lie.

They are not liars.

That’s better.

Too many opportunities exist with the living for embellishment, or in rare cases, humility, or in the worst cases, feigned humility.

How many funerals have you attended where the eulogist didn’t even know the deceased, and when the service was over, people were looking at each other wondering where the speaker got their material?

Living obituaries have some potential but people have a lot of capacity to mess things up. So, if they started out on one track and ended up on the wrong side of the tracks, it could be a problem.

We used to keep clip files on people for when the time came to write their obituaries for our news columns. The world has changed a lot since then and now most people,who are dealing with a death in the family, come up with their own stuff.

Maybe Connie and the rest of us need to meet more people at Brady’s coffee and get to know them.

Until we solve this dilemma, my preference is to leave well enough alone.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Ballard. You were a light in the lives of many children.


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