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Until only recently, I didn’t scan much less read the obituaries. Oh, it caught my attention when a notable passed away, and depending upon who they were or what they did I’d read their final story. But this wasn’t my pattern because scanning the obituaries never seemed to speak to me.

There’s an old joke that does speak to me.

Youth says to old gentleman, “Why do you read the obituaries?”

“To see if I’m still here,” says the old gentleman.

I guess it’s not only an old joke but a dumb one too. But like a lot of jokes there’s just enough reality tucked away within it to grab us. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow and all of us recognize that our day of reckoning cometh, at least we do as we grow older.

But there’s more behind this joke. Checking the obituaries isn’t so much about the old gentleman discovering whether he’s still here as him discovering whom among his friends are not still here. That’s when obituaries begin to speak to you, when you find in them a friend’s final story. With the ravages of time this logically happens more frequently with each birthday under our belt.

Now that I'm in my late 50s I’ve noticed that from time to time a friend’s passing appears in the obituaries. This happened today, a fellow in his late 80s who I worked, attended banquets, and prayed with on a few occasions. He was a good man who leaves a good legacy, and I was in one sense glad I had not missed the news of his home-going.

It’s not, of course, that I enjoy learning a friend or associate is gone. It’s rather an opportunity to read and reflect about them and their contributions. Unless I am able to attend their funeral, reading their obituary is a way for me to pay them silent respect.

So now I scan the obituaries because they speak to me in ways they once did not. And I check to see if I’m still here.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

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