Reading the Obits

December 2, 2022 at 5:04 a.m. Sy Rosen

Okay, I admit it, I’ve been reading the obituaries lately. I don’t know when or why it started, but I’m really into it.

I usually add up the ages of the people who died that day, average them out, and see how I stack up against them. I know this is kind of sick, gruesome, and self-centered. But what can I say? I’m sick, gruesome, and self-centered.

If I’m younger than the average age of the people who died that day, then I’m doing good. If I’m older than the average age, then I just compare myself to the oldest guy who died. Either way, I’m almost always coming out ahead.

By the way, I’ve noticed that people are living longer these days. It’s not uncommon for me to see a few people listed in the obits who were in their nineties or older. And on TV the other day I heard some reporter saying that people, in the not-too-distant future will live to 150. When people hear that, a common question they have is, “Who wants to live that long?” I have a simple answer: “I do!!”

There is one thing about the obituaries that really depresses me—everybody listed seems to have lived fuller and happier lives than I. Of course, these people may be exaggerating or spinning the truth a little. Who can blame them? Your obituary is probably the last time you have to create a little buzz about yourself.

Therefore, a description like, “someone who could always be counted on to be there” might mean he was the guy who always stayed at the party way too long. Or, “he will be greatly missed” might really mean that he owed a lot of money. Or “he always left his mark” might indicate a personal hygiene problem.

Let’s face it, your obit is the last big status symbol. And the ultimate status is getting your picture in the obits. How is it decided who is deserving of this honor and is there someone I can bribe? Of course, I’d have to bribe them before I died and then I wouldn’t be completely sure that they’d put my picture in the obit. Some people have no integrity. Life (and death) just isn’t fair.

Many of the people who have their picture in the obits have done something to improve humanity. I sometimes smile and say hello to strangers, but I don’t think that would qualify me as a great humanitarian. Actually, I just smile, I don’t even say hello. Actually, most of the time, I don’t even smile.

I’ve noticed that some of the people who have their pictures in the obits have done two things with their lives: psychologist/professional drummer; Olympic champion / poet; architect / monkey trainer. I’m not sure I really have one career, so it’s tough to come up with two. Maybe I could just make something up and say writer / neurosurgeon.

This brings up an interesting question: Do they check these things, or do they just accept the word of the person submitting the obituary? I’d hate to have a retraction printed the day after I died: “Sy Rosen wasn’t really a neurosurgeon. He failed biology in high school and is a big, fat liar.”

I think maybe it’s time to get over myself and my obsession with obituaries. If my obit just said that I was a decent man, only occasionally petty and jealous, and left a great family who loved me, I would be happy.

Of course, if they also squeezed in the words “national treasure,” I wouldn’t mind.
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