My mother reads the obituaries in the newspaper each morning. She’s 86, and I suspect she is checking to make sure she isn’t listed. Her official reason is that as an animal lover she wants to see if anyone has left money to the Humane Society, but I know it is more just to see if anyone she knows has died. Not unusual at that age to have friends and acquaintances passing, and you can’t always count on family grieving families to call everyone.
A few years ago I began doing the same morning routine, not because I was expecting any of my friends to die, but because here might be a death notice for the parents of someone I know. Having been through it, I know it is tough when you are grieving to make sure you remember to notify everyone who might be interested. I don’t remember to check the obituaries every day, but I usually manage three times a week.
My mother tends to be rather vocal on what she reads, and like a good son I more or less pay attention. For years she has had a pet peeve about the obituaries that she has mentioned to me regularly. But until yesterday I hadn’t observed it for myself, possibly because I was not reading closely enough. I didn’t know the deceased, but he was someone who had lived a long and full life – he was just short of his 102nd birthday when he died. The death notice, as is customary, listed his descendants. As you can imagine here were quite a few, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and more. It also, as is customary, mentioned that he was pre-deceased by his parents. That is what upsets my mother when she reads these notices, and I must admit it amuses me. He was 101 years old and predeceased by his parents. Was that really necessary to include? After all the oldest person in the world today is 116 years old. What is the likelihood that she would have had a child at 15? Yes, I know, theoretically possible, but here are no living Canadians that old, and this man was a Canadian.I am not a gambler, but I think I am willing to bet any amount you like that there is no centenarian in Canada with living parents. To me that’s no gamble, that is a sure thing.
I suspect that the inclusion of this information as standard in death notices and obituaries has everything to do with revenue. Those ads are paid for by the word. The more the grieving family can be convinced to include, the better for the newspaper’s bottom line.
With newspaper revenues having drastically declined in the digital age, every penny helps. I don’t begrudge the cash to the newspapers. If families are proud of the deceased’s accomplishments and want to trumpet them, then by all means place a big ad. I’m actually more likely to read a large obituary for someone I don’t know because the size stirs my curiosity. But I don’t think you should include information that insults the reader’s intelligence. If the deceased is 101 years old I think any reasonable person would safely assume that their parents pre-deceased them. No need to tell me. So please don’t do it again.
That is my rant for today. My mother would be so proud.