Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Lives Lived

I am a bit of a death addict. Isn't that a nice statement? What I mean by it - when something has the word death, or obituary, or cemetery, or funeral, or grief in it, I pay attention. A documentary that recently aired about cemeteries. Or this morning's discussion on the CBC Radio program The Current* about obituaries and online mourning.

Anna-Maria Tremonti first interviewed a bereaved parent who, after posting the notice of his daughter's death on her MySpace blog, has been monitoring the comments that people have left in memory of his daughter. Then she spoke with the editor of Lives Lived, a 650 word column in the Globe and Mail that shares stories of the lives of deceased Canadians. Finally, she interviewed an obituary writer for insights into the obituary "industry".

I was very moved by the Lives Lived column. I am not a Globe and Mail reader, so I wasn't aware of that column (I rarely read our 20 page local paper, I am more of a radio gal myself). The editor spoke, with feeling, about her approach to the column - it should tell one or two anecdotes about the person that gives us insight into his/her personality, and should not sound like an obituary.

I, of course, tried to imagine what those 650 words might say about my son. And what a lovely idea it is to honour a person's life, rather than dwelling in the horror of his death. As an example, today's subject. Peter Walker was a documentarian responsible for bringing us several episodes of Birth Stories who developed cancer and, in response to that, had the children that he had always hoped for, months before dying. I get that. Using those details of his life to tell his story leads me to an understanding of a person who I would probably not be that interesting in otherwise.

I will be thinking about my 650 words for my son. Perhaps I will manage to put them together in some fashion. Perhaps I will share them with you.

*Note: if you are interested in hearing the program, it will be uploaded to their website later today, early tomorrow. It will probably only be available for one day, so you should try and catch it tomorrow. It was in the last hour of the program.

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