OBITUARIES and PRIVACY
July 2021 Newsletter
I read the obituary of a friend last month. Here is the explanation: “…he died on Tuesday…” That’s all it said. No details, no reason for the death, no accidents or sickness… just simply, “…he died…” And then it went on to tell when he was born, who were his parents, when is the funeral, etc.
I was telling my daughter that it used to be different. They used to give details. We knew the cause of death by reading the obituary. Today everything is so private. I once called the hospital to see if my mom was still there. “Has Lorain Schmid been discharged?” I asked. “We can’t tell you,” was the response. I was slightly “irked,” so I said, “Ma’am, Let me rephrase that: I’d like to speak with Lorain Schmid.” “She is not here. She was discharged this morning.” (?!)
Part of this seemingly unwarranted (in my opinion) privacy kick is because of laws, some of which are there for good reason, others, you just have to wonder what in the world were they thinking?
I told my daughter about a 1937 obituary from my home area of Moreland, Ohio that told the whole story. Since nobody involved is still living, I will quote directly from the original obituary:
“Lester Burnett, 24, first Wayne County man to operate a passenger-carrying plane from a local airport, ended his life last midnight by firing a bullet from a .22 caliber rifle into his brain. Burnett shot himself at the home of his sweetheart, Myrtle Patterson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Patterson, near Moreland. Refusal of Miss Patterson to agree to marry him on her birthday anniversary in June had almost immediately preceeded the shooting.”
The article goes on to explain that Miss Patterson wanted Burnett to have a steady income before she agreed to marry him. Then it gets graphic again:
“Miss Patterson’s father found the young man’s body slumped down in the car seat. Blood flowed from a wound in the forehead. He had evidently shot himself while the girl went upstairs… The coroner pronounced death due to suicide.”
Dude! Can you imagine an obituary like that today?! I realize that death by suicide is horrible for those of us left behind and it is discretionary and kind to the family and survivors to not give details, but the pendulum has swung the other way, leaving us wondering what happened? Lack of details in an obituary makes me guess: Suicide? Drugs? Sickness? Homicide? Old age?
I just learned that a few of my friends have already written their own obituaries! Their reasoning is to spare their children the stress and burden. I haven’t written mine yet, but I learned that D.L. Moody, the famous evangelist, wrote about his obituary:
“Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal-a body that death cannot touch, that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.” -D.L. Moody
Friends, life is short; death is certain. Are you concerned about dying? Don’t. You will live forever! Your concern should be: Location, Location, Location.
If you believe in the name of the Son of God (commit your life to Jesus) you can know that you have eternal life.
-I John 5:13
And privacy? “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.”
“Be real, stay ready.” -Glendon Bender
“Christians live good and they die good.” – Steve Wingfield