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Our Local Roots

An old friend, now deceased, used to say somewhat in jest: “Every morning I read the obits in The Post-Journal. If my name isn’t there, I go to Moonbrook and play golf!”

I must admit that I also read the obits every day in the same newspaper. It is more than seeing who has died. They are statements about people’s lives and how they were connected to this community. They reflect a cross-section of what it means to live in this largely rural, small town place we call home.

One of my high school classmates recently died. He hadn’t lived here for years. We only saw him at reunions or sometimes on summer visits. Yet, he still considered this “home” and his family recognized that in writing the obituary.

There is hardly ever an obituary of a nationally famous person dying… like you see in the big city newspapers. Our local paper stays local. Some are eulogies about individuals who were born and raised here, left the area, went to universities and had great careers. But, most of these announcements deal with people who lived around here and they speak about what was important to them.

A lot of times, one’s faith is declared–statements start with a comment about going home to be with the Lord. Yet, I remember one obituary where the writer was obviously the deceased, and he apologized to his pastor–admitting that his life and faith hadn’t lived up to what it should have been. At the end of the obit, he said to the pastor and all of his friends: “Thanks and good-bye. I’ll see you on the other side!”

It is also clear that at life’s end, family becomes very important. Often there are heartening descriptions of the deceased being surrounded by family at the time of death. If the person was a veteran, there is also usually a reference to their military service.

What mesmerizes me most; however, is how totally honest and transparent these writings can be. I remember one where the deceased was remembered for liking the out-of-doors and especially enjoyed riding his four-wheeler out on the state lands. Another, talked about the person’s enjoyment in watching television and playing with dogs and grandchildren. These sort of unfiltered feelings are not something you would see if you were reading a newspaper published in a big city like Chicago or New York.

Some obituaries, of course, are very sad. When the person is young and died “unexpectedly,” you worry that it could have been from a drug overdose. Not all obits are of people who have lived a long and happy life.

Yet, the underlying reason that leads me to the obituary page is this sense of connecting to the community around me. Here, in this beautiful place with a lake surrounded by rolling hills, farm fields and small towns we live together as an incredibly diverse people with a lot of different interests. We are a small microcosm of the big America, but we are real. The obituary page puts us in touch with that. Though obits are announcements of death, they are also statements of life. They help us remember who we are.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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