Monday, February 16, 2009

Death in the South

Richmond obituaries are different from those I recall reading in California. Granted, I was younger in California and perhaps did not read the obituaries as closely as I do now. By closely I mean that I mentally calculate the average age of death for the day, and if it comes out to be more than ten years older than I am, it's a good day. More than fifteen years older is a great day. Meanwhile, I am convinced by the content of the obituaries that the reason I still live is due to my general lack of accomplishment and the fact that my friends and family are not breathlessly amazed by the extent of my kindness to strangers, overwhelming generosity of spirit, beautiful singing voice, and unbending cheerfulness.

But I'm pretty well convinced that the South has not lost its grip on Richmond when it comes to obits, and that's a good thing. No one "dies" in Richmond, or very few, at any rate. They "depart this life" (my personal favorite), "go home to be with their Heavenly Father," "begin their journey to the Lord," "enter into their Eternal Rest," are "called home" and so on. Nicknames are extremely popular in the South, and they are always included in the write-up, no matter how undignified the nickname may be, or how seemingly unsuited to the photograph of a grim, cadaverously ancient gentleman or lady. Examples are usually plentiful, but I can find only two in the past few days: Emroy M. Adams "Boodie Bump," and Donald Hugh Etheridge, Sr. "Hawkeye." May they both rest in peace. Many times it is obvious that family members have written all or most of the obituary, and often to the delight of readers. This morning we were informed that an 86 year old lady had "turned to shopping as a profession, after a brief career in nursing, and made a greater effort to stimulate the economy than President Obama ever will. The vast majority of Richmond merchants will mourn her passing." What fun!


  1. Sharon,
    I now wonder why you never wrote a book. You have quite a way with words. I always wondered why people would read blogs or even write them. "Don't these people have a life"?, I would ask myself. Well, it's obvious that you do have a life and I must not since I am enjoying your blog so much. I have another friend who is a bit of a nut case also. I am going to send her your link as I think she will enjoy it as much as me. I obviously, am not working today and as the sun rises, I am just sitting here, enjoying the coffee, the sun rise and my newspaper. Alas, the economy has decided that I must work a little more, so with a great sigh, I will depart this life,hmmm, maybe not like the obits, but this life of leisure, and return to work.

  2. I agree with Kay---you are a wonderful writer. I laughed out loud reading this piece, which is kind of funny, considering the subject matter. I've always read the obituaries, even as a teenager and even used to write down some of the more unusual names (which I expect we have more of in the South), along with all those delightful nicknames you mentioned. In our obituaries today, we have "Corky","Pops","Toot","Babe", "Bunt", and "Biggie."

    I also wanted to mention that I loved the Mary Oliver poem in the other post. I wish I could find a church that opens their service with a Mary Oliver poem.

    Anyway, I really like what you've written so far, and I look forward to future posts. (I like your blog name, too.)

  3. Beth, thanks for reading and I hope you will drop by often. Loved the nicknames in your obits! I don't know where you live, but if you are in Richmond on a Sunday, look me up for the Celtic service. I think the idea is catching on in a lot of churches, especially Episcopalian ones.