full circle in the hundred acre wood

It may be an old South kind of a thing. Or that notion may be a conceit. Maybe, instead, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who read obituary notices and those who don’t.

I read them everyday. Mostly, thank God, they’re written about people I don’t know and have never heard of. Occasionally, I get an unpleasant surprise when a person I have met turns up dead, and then I stop reading, feeling a little ashamed, like I have been eavesdropping on a private conversation.

Lois got me started reading obituaries. Lois was Buck’s mother, and before she died that June afternoon 13 years ago, she and I would spend many an afternoon in her nursing home room dissecting the day’s obituaries. I would help her get propped up just right with several pillows at her back, and then sit in the upholstered blue rocking chair beside the bed, making our usual comfortable small talk as she folded the local section of the newspaper to the death notices and adjusted her eyeglasses.

I would sit in that cool, semi-dark room and rock, waiting for her to begin. She always started with a few monosylables: “Hum.” “Oh, Dear.” Then, warming up, “Now, that’s an old Pensacola name.”

Somewhere in the day’s column of losses, Lois would find a tale to tell, something to prod one of those old file cabinets where stroke-induced lightning had flashed, and the memories would come rushing back in as though the stone had been rolled away from a dammed-up spring.

I read one this morning and a line jumped out at me:

“She was a good mother, rarely demanding, always loving.”


0 thoughts on “Reading Obituaries

  1. Dave says:

    I read an obituary in my local paper the other day for a retired cemetery groundskeeper, about to be buried in the same cemetery after a private ceremony. Adding to the poetic effect (if it isn’t too morbid to say so) was my knowledge of the location of this cemetery: in the center of town, where all graveyards should be IMO.


  2. Gullible says:

    Read ’em every day myself. More and more though, I recognize the names. Perhaps it’s morbid curiosity. Maybe it’s wanting to know if a friend passes. More than likely, it’s a certain unrecognized relief that “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
    Nice story, Beth, as always. Love your soft touch with words. How’s the foot?


  3. Marie says:

    I read the obits as well. Like the tradition of stopping on the road when the funeral party passes, is a sign of respect. Reading the obit is one’s final story. It deserves to be read.


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