Friday, March 02, 2007


obituary, originally uploaded by bryan_schuetz.

...and leave behind astonishing stories and inspiring legacies that just beg to be captured in the one-line obituaries.

While searching through Flickr for a photo to illustrate my post, I found this one, which was posted by Brian Schuetz. (Click photo to see more of his work.)

I'm not sure when Tommy Williams died or where he lived, but reading about him in the early hours of March 3, 2007, his life once again had resonance.

A few more:

Keith Kyle, historian and writer: "He was devoid of guile and incapable of envy."

Alan McDiarmid, scientist and Nobel laureate, speaking for himself: "I am a very lucky person and the harder I work, the luckier I seem to be."

Mai Ghoussob, Publisher, writer and artist: "She was without compromise, but she always cared for everyone."

Job Bwayo, renowned scientist and AIDs researcher, killed in a carjacking: "Bwayo had a towering physique, a smile for everyone, and an expression that gave hope to all."

Celia Franca, dancer, choreographer and teacher: "If I was born to anything, it was to start a ballet company and boss people around."

Howver, Thomas Williams, who made the caretaking of graves into a solemn avocation, come upon by accident on Flickr, was the one who made it hardest to choose a single line .

There was this: "He had never required the services of a physician or a dentist in his life."

And this: "Grief stricken families found in him a sympathetic listener."

Or perhaps it is the simplest line of all that says it best: "Mr. Williams was a kindly man."


Zhoen said...

Could do worse than being remembered as Kindly.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Funny, those were the lines that stayed with me as well.

I collect obituaries too. My favorite was of a mother, the wife of a warden, who raised her five children on the prison grounds. The obit spoke of how she maintained a sense of normalcy for her children even though they were surrounded by armed guards and their breakfast window overlooked the prison yard.

I've been plotting a book based on that obit; can't you just imagine it?

Patry Francis said...

zhoen: There's something so sweet about that term. Really, this did everything a "good" obit should do; it illuminated an ordinary life, and showed that it was anything but.

Amy: Yes, I CAN imagine it; and it sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Your title reminds me of an old headline from the Oinion: "Death Rate Still 100 Percent"

robin andrea said...

Populations have swelled. We no longer live in community, but the obituary still has a way of making our anonymity disappear for just a moment.

Lorna said...

I'm still working on the catchy phrase I would like to see as my memorial---it changes often, which is uplifting because it means I'm still on my journey.

Strangely, "kindly" has always seemed a stingy word to me---the person being described just couldn't make it to "generous" or "loving"...perspective is everything

Crockhead said...

Hey, Patry, are we doing Third Day Book Club today? I have my review up. I have a suggestion for April. Let's do "The Liar's Diary." I've read it and have been trying to organize my thoughts. A deadline would make me get a report written. It might even be fun for you to review it.

Unknown said...

I am only halfway through Dead Fathers. I'll still post my review ASAP. I'm enjoying it.
Is that what inspired the obituaries post?

Patry Francis said...

dave: I keep waiting for that to change.

robin: Sometimes. Other times the obituary only makes us more anonymous. That seems the final travesty to me.

lorna: I have the feeling that "loving" would have felt too extravagant to a man like Thomas. But there's a steadiness--and a kind of gentleness-to "kindly" that I admire.

amishlaw: Thank you for suggesting we blog The Liar's Diary next month, but objectivitiy might be a problem for me...How about Finn by Jon Clinch? It has an intriguing premise, and he's been getting a lot of good reviews.

sarala: Post whenever you're ready!
Hope you're enjoying the book.

Crockhead said...

Patry, it is said (and it has been my observation) that a craftsman (craftswoman?) can always see the flaws in the product that no one else notices. It would be interesting to read what, if anything, you would change if you were to write the book again.

Patry Francis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patry Francis said...

amishlaw: The relationship between an author and her novel, or more specifically an author and her characters, is a complex, almost mystical one. At least, that's how it feels to me. These people came to me, and I told their story as passionately and honestly (and yes, entertainingly) as I possibly could. I'm proud of the results!

Now, however, the story has gone to readers, who will evaluate it with the same cold, discriminating eye that we bring to our selections at the Third Day Book Club. It's your book now.

If I learned anything in the process of writing and editing The Liar's Diary, it's gone into my next novel--which is now with my editor.

Anonymous said...

These always make me pause. (That's a good thing.)

Patry Francis said...

kg: Me, too.

MB said...

The McDiarmid quote made me pause and ponder.