Something horrible is happening. Dozens of local people die every day. It’s a holocaust.
I read the obituary page, and feel bad for everyone there. What’s happened to them is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. (And someday it will happen to me.)
It’s gotten worse since the local paper went to full color printing. Now the people pictured in obituaries seem more real to me.
Dying at, like, 83, is uninteresting. But I’m always drawn to those listing younger ages. “Passed away suddenly,” “died at home,” etc. – it makes me wonder what could have happened. It’s a reminder of life’s fragility. Though actually such wording – especially, “died unexpectedly” – can be a euphemism for suicide. Tragic how common that is.
Speaking of euphemism, of course most obituaries avoid words like “died.” Some read as though the person merely moved away – to a better neighborhood, at that.
What I like is obituaries with high ages. “Sally Jones, 103.” I say to myself, way to go, old Sal! Made it to 103! It gives me hope. And for centenarians I’ll glance over the details, to see what a person did in such a long life. It seems that high achievers in the age department are often high achievers in other ways.
One recent obit was for a Vera Lister, 100. I read it. Said she was a “homemaker for most of her life.” Zzzz. But also that, in the British navy in WWII, she participated in breaking the German enigma code. Holy smoke!
There are some amazing people among us, and we don’t always know it. One local acquaintance, the most unassuming of men, I recently learned worked on the Manhattan Project.
Of course, a big reason for checking the obits is to look for names I know. I’m not very social, yet it’s amazing how many folks one has encountered in half a century in Albany. Seeing someone on that page can be a shocker. Not long ago, a guy I knew from work; younger than me; a lively fellow, in rude health when I’d seen him just shortly before. Died in some stupid accident. Another memento mori reminder.
Sometimes merely the age is a shocker. Just saw the obit of a young feller I once knew slightly. He was eighty. How could that be? Time gets away from us.
Yet the obituary page – occasionally – offers some yuks too. One recently made me laugh out loud. Guy’s name was Harold Hazzard. The obit included his nickname: Harold “Hap” Hazzard. He must have had a sense of humor.
But this holocaust must stop. And we’re working on it. This is what medical science is ultimately all about. It’s not enough to cure illness when people must die in the end anyway. But aging and death too are medical problems. A key factor is telomeres, little extensions on the ends of chromosomes. When cells divide, telomeres get shorter. And, when you’re out of telomeres – you’re out.
There’s an enzyme called telomerase that can replenish them. Unfortunately, a dose of telomerase gives you cancer. But maybe we can fix that.
And someday, you’ll turn to the obituary page, and it will say: no deaths to report.