You'll have to forgive me, but I'm very prone to obsession; and since I started collecting one-line obits, I can't stop.
There's more life packed into an obituary than in any other piece of writing in the newspaper. A well-written obituary lets character shine through just like a well-written novel or memoir does.
When my father died, I tried to tell the newspaper who he WAS, not what he did to insure his survival on this planet, where he was born, or who he left behind--though those things are part of the story, but what made his life--and him-- unique. They listened, but in the end, they printed the dry facts. I didn't even bother to clip the obituary. It was only one of many places where I looked and found my father absent.
In the following obituaries, I found that a trace of the spirit remained. Though I didn't know any of these people, I knew a litle bit about their fire, their humor, their compassion:
Paul Ableman, Avant-garde novelist: "He was a rascal, a Bohemian, a lover of women and words, food and drink, argument and debate, a seeker of both truth and the beauty of the English countryside."
Mario Merolo, Italian master of musical melodrama: "His funeral witnessed scenes of mass hysteria normally seen only at religious events."
Wanjiro Kihoro, Kenyan writer who fought corruption from exile: "Her vulnerability was there in her poetry and writings, but she sang a true song." Or maybe just "She sang a true song."
Pietro Rava, World Cup winner with Italy in 1938: "He was always a fiery lad."
Hank Shaw, Exubert bebop trumpeter: "His advanced yoga studies seemed to be largely an excuse for extra sleep."
Leonard Freed, photographer who documented the struggles of ordinary people. "He had an eye for the upbeat, even in the grimmest of circumstances."
Of course, the lives we choose to admire or find worthy of interest, speak about us as well, about what we consider a life well-lived. I think if I had to choose one of these lines to be spoken about me, I would want Freedman's--though I can relate to Shaw's form of "advanced yoga studies," I admire Kihoro more than I can say, and I wouldn't mind just a little bit of "mass hysteria" at my funeral. Or is a little bit of mass hysteria an oxymoron?