Monday, April 02, 2007

The Weekly One Line Obituaries

"magic fly paula," a photographer whose work draws me to it again and again, calls this "Blue Words from the Silent World." It seems to fit.

I usually like to find six obituaries before I stop my search, but these five
contain enough for one week.

As always, I will confine myself to one line about each person, but there was a story about Olive Dehn which seemed so poignant to me that I have to share it: She loved her hens so much that she never left her cottage unattended, for fear a fox might get one of them. At one point, there had been eighty hens, but in the end, only one remained. Dehn gave it away to a friend a few days before she died. I'm not sure why that story touches me so much, but it does.

The rest of these lives spoke to me in different ways. Gilly Singh Mundy, who worked tirelessly and humbly for social justice, but loved a great party, reminds me to celebrate more. And the the line about Maha Ghosananda who lost sixteen siblings in the Khmer Rouge massacre is so hopeful it sings. But enough from me; let the blue words speak.

Olive Dehn, Poet, writer, organic farmer for 40 years:

" Dehn was forever cooking, feeding, and comforting, as well as opening the house to people in need." (Or maybe it would suffice to say she loved hens?)

Don McPhee, Photojournalist:

"He found grace, courage, and dignity in unlikely places." (This is a man worth learning more about...)

Cormac Rigby, BBC Radio Announcer and Catholic Priest with a passon for ballet:

"He was in every sense a good man."

Gilly Singh Mundy, community activist, who dedicated his life to the fight against racism and injustice:

"His beautiful photographs and his love of music and food were an expression of his passion for life; he threw legendary parties."

Maha Ghosananda, Cambodian peace worker:

"For all his learning and his mastery of ten languages, he built his work on a belief in the transformative power of inner peace."

33 comments:

marja-leena said...

These are really inspiring lessons on living, thanks Patry for finding and sharing!

Patry Francis said...

Nice to see you here, Marja-leena!

Terri /Tinker said...

The photo does fit perfectly. Though each of them grabs at my heart in its own way, Olive Dehn's obituary is especially touching - I wonder what happened to the other 79 hens...

You've gotten me reading the local obituaries now. I just read this librarian's obituary in yesterday's local paper, and immediately thought of your obituary posts:
"Selma (Jerry) Keller was a musician known for her piano artistry and her considerate heart." Even though she was founder of the local League of Women Voter's, among many other accomplishments, that line stands out the most to me.

Patry Francis said...

terri: That's the line that would have grabbed me, too. In the end, it's not the accomplishments, but the character that comes through.

Irene said...

"He found grace, courage, and dignity in unlikely places." I love this.

zhoen said...

Olive lived a metaphor for late life, gathering and caring for all the chickens, then gradually losing them all, until she could follow.

Transformed lives. Giving, genuine, grateful lives.

Jone said...

I like this take on obituaries.

MB said...

Patry, I've missed reading your blog. These last three posts are marvelous, each in their own way. And I love the photos you've chosen to accompany them. I am amazed at how the sentences you've chosen for these five lives burn, incandescent, like the spirits they represent.

I finished your book on the plane. It was the perfect read for my flight into vacation! I loved the moment I realized you'd snared me in your web, that I wouldn't stop reading until I'd understood.

Anonymous said...

I'm most taken with Cormac Rigby - a priest with a passion for ballet. I wonder if he danced or watched? Wouldn't it be great if he danced?

And, like Terri, I'm curious about the 79 hens and whether a single one of them died a death by fox.

xoxo,
Tish Cohen

Amishlaw said...

I like the obits, particularly the person with the chickens. I have an unrelated question: Are we doing Third Day Book Club today? I see the blurb on the right is still for March. Weren't we doing Finn by Jon Clinch for today?

Courtney said...

Oh, I love the last one. I think if you feel peace on the inside you can work to help others aim for peace as well.

rdl said...

The hen lady story seems like true devotion. I like the party guy alot too. Just back from vaca and wishing it could be vaca all the time.

robin andrea said...

Such evocative one lines, suggesting so much about life, and the lives lived by these five. I always appreciate these glimpses.

Patry Francis said...

Irene: You should google him. He was an amazing man!

zhoen: That must have been what touched me so much about the hens. The sense of hoarding the last one, and then gracefully giving that away, too.

jone: I try to do them on a weekly basis, but since I only accomplish about 50% of ANYTHING I try to do, they usually appear bi-weekly.

mb: I don't write many poems these days, though I did write a couple when I was traveling. Maybe these short lines are a substitute: my "found poems." p.s. So happy you enjoyed the book...

tish: Oh yes, I hope he danced, too! As far as the hens go, what intrigued me most was why she loved them so much...They don't seem like terribly lovable creatures to me, but perhaps that's a learned callousness on my part. If I allowed myself to bond with a hen, how would I continue to eat them?

amishlaw: Sorry! But I thoroughly enjoyed--and recommend everyone check out your thought-provoking review. Amy at The Writers Group Blog on my sidebar also wrote about Finn today--though not particularly for the Third Day Book Club.

courtney: Somehow I feel more peaceful just reading that line.

r: Maybe we need some hens in our lives? Jackson, Jade and Star would love that development.

robin: I'm not surprised you like my poets, animal lovers and peaceniks!

Anonymous said...

Patry,

I think I could love a hen.

Tish

Patry Francis said...

Tish: I'm actually AFRAID that I could love one--or even 80 of them. I hardly leave the house as it is; imagine if I had to guard my brood from the fox?

KG said...

These always touch me so much, Patry. The lines you choose bring the important parts of life into sharp focus so well.

Left-handed Trees... said...

I love Olive Dehn now...sigh, how amazing was this?
Love,
D.

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Patry! These little posts of yours are so nice in the way they encapsulate lives in a line -- or you know, hint at them -- and give me a little boost thinking how there are amazing people in the world dedicating themselves to good; and how there are good people leading simple, good lives. Always nice to remember!!

Patry Francis said...

kg: Thank you...

delia: Olive and her last hen seem to have struck a chord with all of us.

laini: That's it, isn't it? We need to know that there are countless people out there leading lives dedicated to good. We need not to forget.

colleen said...

Patry, you might recall that I read our local obituaries for the old country names, which are like a form of poetry to me. A few new ones include: (men) Esker, Dossie, Orbie, Earles, Garver, and Squire. (women) Patience, Gusti, Ovilla, Nobie, Velvia, and Cova. Can you believe it?

The part about her hens touched me too.

PS I'm talking about you on my blog today. It's all good.

Patry Francis said...

Colleen: Just reading those names, I'm already imagining lives. I especially like Gusti. In my next life maybe?

Marilyn said...

"...he built his work on a belief in the transformative power of inner peace." I need to have that line glued to every surface in sight.

Patry Francis said...

Marilyn: That's been a big one for me lately, too!

K-Oh said...

What a wonderful idea, this obituary gleaning. I get caught up in the pictures on the obit pages. I find it poignant and little bit unsettling that these pictures were taken at some other point in time-- at a party, before the boat left harbor, while posing next to historical monument while driving cross country. And that the people had no idea that those same pictures would accompany the notice of their death.

Did I say that here before?

Patry Francis said...

K: "Obituary gleaning"--what a perfect term for this strange habit of mine. And no, you didn't mention your thoughts about the photos here before. It definitely gave me pause. Also made me look of that little snapshot of mine in the corner, smiling happily on the beach...will that be the one?

marlyat2 said...

My favorite obit name, gleaned in the North Carolina mountains, decades ago: Faery Laughter, an old mountain man.

Patry Francis said...

marlyat: That name could inspire any
number of stories--or just magical daydreams! Thanks for sharing it here.

Lorna said...

Would that you'd had one for Kurt Vonnegut....maybe My Life Changed When I Read Kurt Vonnegut...no, that would have to be my one-liner.

Patry Francis said...

Hi Lorna, I've missed you--though I know it's totally my fault. I haven't had much time to visit many of my favorite bloggy places these days. And don't worry; I've already got my one line for Kurt Vonnegut ready for next week...Or is it this week?

paris parfait said...

Fab photo and inspiring words about inspiring lives.

rdl said...

Love the latest post. try going into the template and adding comments?? I guess i'll have to come down there; as if i know what i'm doing.

Patry Francis said...

tara: Happy you enjoyed them.

r.: I've tried everything!