Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Once In A While

UntitledI don't know how they announce a death in your neighborhood but in mine we usually get a xeroxed information sheet taped to the window of the building's front door. It talks about the person's "homegoing" or their "sunrise" and "sunset" and it lets you know where the services are being held and when. Most of the time there is a photo. Most of the time that photo is more than a decade old.

Earlier this month my next door neighbor died. I attended her funeral yesterday and it was a lovely service for which I was grateful to be present. I almost missed it, though, because she was in good health and died suddenly. When I saw the notice on the door, despite recognizing her name, the picture didn't look a thing like the woman I've known for almost eleven years so I did everything I could to dismiss the idea. It became clear that it was Ms. Hall and I went on to tell other neighbors who also didn't recognize her but after we talked a while they understood just who had left us.

Today, friends and neighbors, please hearken to this Public Service Announcement.

Every six months, or at least every year, I want you to do me (and your next of kin) a favor. I want you to have your picture taken. It should be a closeup without a drink in your hand, a hat on your head, or sunglasses hiding your pretty peepers.

I can hear you say, "Aw, nobody wants to see me!"

You're wrong. I, for one, want to see you. I always want to see you. I am forever grateful to the person who invented Flickr because the opportunity to casually flip through the world's vacation photos is a hot fudge sundae of a treat for me!

That's not the point, though. The point is for posterity, just for the record as they say.

"But we don't do doorway death notices and I know all the people I care about coming to my funeral." you tell me.

You do obituaries and death notices in the newspaper don't you? What if the nice crossing guard or the giggly check out girl or the new guy from church reads it and doesn't realize it's you until it's all over.

OK, ok, I get it, you're right. It might not be important to you. It's important to me, though, and I'll bet it's important to someone who is, in turn, important to you. I've helped pore over hundreds of family photo albums rejecting fabulous picture after fabulous picture for inclusion in a newspaper announcement or on a service program. Too small, too far away, can't crop out mother/sister/spouse/nephew/stranger/Santa, sunglasses, ratty old ball cap, beer, different sunglasses, beer and sunglasses, beer and sunglasses and cap, prom picture, etc. You get the idea.

If we love you we want to know you and remember you at your best but at your real best. Trust me, please. Just do this. Just let your kid take that picture of you at the beach. Let your friend snap a shot over lunch at the taco place. Let your husband click a pic while you're gardening.


I want the last image of you I remember to be your smile.


  1. I had no idea about the window-posting of death notices. I don't know what one would do in a suburban setting that would be comparable.

  2. I think that's a great idea!!! (((Kizz))) Do you know what happened to her?

  3. Sueb0b, the only thing I can think of is the phone tree. The closer comparison is actually suburban birth announcements when they put the sign in the yard with the details so that people won't keep coming over and calling and waking the family.

    Janet, I do. She was on vacation in the Bahamas to mark the passing of her husband (a few years ago). I think she was visiting family. Her appendix burst, they did surgery, and she didn't survive. There's a rumor that she hadn't felt well but didn't tell anyone, presumably so as not to ruin the vacation, which is how things got to the bursting stage.

  4. "I want the last image of you I remember to be your smile. "


  5. well if you insist...

  6. Ummm.... do I have to do the photo thing every six months? As you can see from having seen me recently, I look pretty much the same as I did when we met back in '94! I will take my photo more recently if I change my hair colour/cut or finally get a nose job, though (ha ha!).