Over the past year, there have been an inordinate number of people on my radar – neither family nor very close friends, but certainly in my life – who will not be at their Thanksgiving tables this year. I suspect that’s true of many others. The empty chairs serve as reminders of the beloved souls – young, old, healthy,…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on November 28, 2013 at 9:00am — No Comments
As an avid obituary writer and reader, it always surprises me when I miss someone in the local paper I knew but never saw the obit. Two that stunned me when I finally heard the news were easy to miss: no photo!
One friend was a kinesiology expert I had consulted for years, so I was shocked…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on November 8, 2013 at 12:30pm — No Comments
People have come up with all kinds of ways to attain their 15 minutes of fame. But many who have a spotlight on them these days don’t even know it. They’re the ones whose death notices, written by themselves or family members, are “going viral.”
According to the online Urban Dictionary, “… a link goes viral…
Added by Susan Soper on October 11, 2013 at 2:36pm — No Comments
Over the past 15 years, I have been a dedicated reader of obituaries. I would say a voracious reader but that doesn’t sound quite right! During that time, I have watched them evolve in many interesting and unpredictable ways.
Oh, they still include the basics – born on, lived in, learned at, worked for and left behind – but there is much more to celebrate about lives these days: traveled to, cooked for, partied with, danced to, loved, collected and…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on July 30, 2013 at 1:00pm — No Comments
Between my mother’s slow death, at 45, in 1968 and my dad’s sudden passing in 1996, much had changed about how we process those losses and the grief that follows. What hadn’t changed so much was the way deaths were announced in obituaries: death notices were still, for the most part, fairly straightforward without much flourish or fanfare. Not many of the special traits and eccentricities that make us all unique were included in those days.
But with The New York…Continue
Since I'm the only one of my siblings living in the town we grew up in – Atlanta – I am often the bearer of sad passings of friends from our childhoods. I monitor the obituaries daily and often send one to them, knowing they will be interested: A best friend's elderly mother, a favorite teacher, a boyfriend's dad and, just this week, an old boyfriend himself.
"He was the first boy I ever kissed," my sister Wendy said. "It was very awkward. I had just gotten braces…Continue
Assuming that every day should and could be Father’s Day, it’s not too late to take note of a good dad’s day story I want to pass along – something I heard Sunday on Bob Edwards Weekend (Public Radio International) that really offered a touching footnote for the day.
Edwards was interviewing…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on June 19, 2012 at 10:00am — No Comments
On Father’s Day 1996, I gave my dad a leather chair and ottoman to replace the one he had worn the leather off of – especially the arm and head rests – from hours spent reading, talking on the phone, chatting with whomever was sitting across from him having a cocktail. Yes, probably even dozing. It was meant to be the ultimate gift for his years of love, guidance, nurturing, advice, mentoring, tennis, discipline and devotion.
Two weeks later, he died very suddenly…Continue
I’ve been noticing more pets being mentioned among the survivors in recent obituaries and have also become aware that some papers (most of them in small towns) are running pet obituaries among their paid obituary notices. In their how-to templates they offer guidelines for what to include in an obituary for an animal friend: cause of death, favorite memories, where to send condolences, who to list among survivors (including blood relatives).
There are also many…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on May 18, 2012 at 12:00pm — No Comments
Journalists are great carriers and receivers of information – particularly when it comes to news about each other. We tend to stick together. Facebook has made that even easier to trade information, tidbits, blog postings and personal news whether happy or sad.
Last fall, one of my former colleagues at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution died – a single mom leaving a 10-year-old adopted…
Added by Susan Soper on May 11, 2012 at 10:30am — No Comments
As Mother’s Day approaches, there are lots of children, mothers, sisters, spouses who are missing a woman who meant everything to them. Everything. In many cases, their obituaries probably did not reflect enough about them – their core being – to really illustrate the impact of their lives or the voids they left.
Unfortunately, as the cycle of life proves over and over, there are also…
Added by Susan Soper on May 10, 2012 at 10:00am — No Comments
Gertrude Murrell DuPont Howland doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Especially not at this stage of her life. She’ll be 102 in July.
The Richmond native was a dutiful wife and mother until she divorced and became an archaeologist in her 60s, traveling to digs all over the world: from Afghanistan and Turkey to Italy, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. She traversed the Khyber Pass and went to Hong Kong.
Her second husband, now deceased, was happy to…Continue
I recently wrote an obituary for a man who died suddenly and too soon. I didn’t know him – he was a friend of a friend – but because I am a writer and am immersed in all things obituaries, I am sometimes called on to pitch in for families and friends. In this case, my friend asked me to write the obituary because she wanted to give it to the grieving family as a “gift” – relieving them of as much of the decision-making, fact-checking, detail-gathering chores as possible at a time…Continue
When I was a child, we had an annual ritual of writing letters to Santa Claus and then going out to the backyard with my parents to burn them. Fascinated even then with all the rites of Native American Indians, I was certain my Christmas wishes would become smoke signals easily read by Santa in the North Pole.
I was reminded of this recently, reading The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members. These are published letters for all…Continue
As the 10thanniversary of 9/11 hovers around us all this week, it’s difficult for those of us who didn’t suffer the direct hit – whether in human loss or up-close trauma – to think about how we can pay tribute to those who died, to those who saved, and to those who were left behind to endure their grief.
Never before had our country been so publically bombarded with every moment of that horrific tragedy, shown over and over on televisions that day and on…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on September 9, 2011 at 10:00am — No Comments
People often visit gravesites to commune with whatever piece of their soul might hover in that environment. I have a friend who takes the Easter lilies I give her each year to her husband’s grave, and another who devoted herself to restoring an overgrown, neglected burial ground in South Carolina. There is a woman in New York who advertises her services ($25-35) to visit nearby gravesites…Continue
Added by Susan Soper on August 1, 2011 at 11:00am — No Comments
Every year when Father’s Day approaches, my husband and I pick up a debate that has been with us through 23 years of marriage. Is my dad’s fried corn better than his dad’s? Or vice versa?
It’s really kind of a moot point but a semantic exercise we enjoy annually.
When our two dads were still with us, both of them World War II veterans who knew their way around a kitchen or two, we happily…
Added by Susan Soper on June 16, 2011 at 5:00pm — No Comments
Right on the stiletto heels of spring, eye-popping and heady heights of color and bounce – here comes Mother’s Day!
But for those of us without our mothers, even if you are one, it can feel more like a flat-footed event – particularly as Mother’s Day has gained commercial and emotional momentum over the years.
When my mother died, in 1968 at age 45, Mother’s Day was noted with breakfast in bed or by taking some special chores off her plate or by planting a…
Sometimes it’s pretty hard to find a silver lining in a tragic event – particularly the loss of a valued friend or family member. But time, the most enduring healer, and patient reflection can often point to something positive that resulted from a terribly sad time.
A little over a year ago, a college friend, Sally Chambers Bond, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. She was devastated. She was brave. She was hopeful. With courage and grace she took on the treatments we…
Added by Susan Soper on April 18, 2011 at 11:30am — No Comments