I know it might seem a little creepy, but I read the obituaries daily, it's a habit, and one that most of my siblings also engage in. My grandfather was an undertaker in South Philly, and my mom grew up in a house where viewings were held in her living room, so maybe that's the source of our fascination, and not our Irish roots.
"Not so," says Diarmuid O'Guillain, Professor of Irish Literature at Notre Dame who writes, "There is an Irish obsession with knowing who died." Well we are Irish, and we are obsessed with knowing who died.
A typical exchange between my sister and I might go something like this:
Sis: Did you see that guy in today's paper? (It does not need to be said that she's referring to the obituaries. It's understood. Or whom "that guy" is because that's also understood.)
Me: I did. He was so young. (We always focus on the young people. It's more tragic.)
Sis: Where were donations directed?
Me: I don't think it said. (It drives us crazy when we don't know what they died from. Why do we care? I have no idea.)
Sis: He was married, right?
Me: I think so, but I don't remember if he had kids.
So, we're obsessed, but we can't manage to remember any of the details.
Sometimes an exchange between my brother and I might go like this:
Bro: Did you see [Insert Name]'s mother died?
Me: Yeah, that was too bad.
Bro: Did they graduate with you or the year after you?
Me: The year after me. (Why does any of that matter? Don't ask me.)
Bro: She was sick awhile.
Me: I know. It's sad.
My brother, who is a doctor, reads the local obituaries and is able to identify several people a day who were former patients. We can't compete with him.
As I write this I realize how crazy my siblings and I might seem to you. In fact, a psychologist would likely have a field day analyzing my family's interest in the deaths of total strangers, but it's probably no more complicated than we're just happy it's not us we're reading about, it is interesting reading, and we like to know who died. We're Irish remember?
A recent Dear Abby response described obituaries as follows:
An obituary is more than a death announcement. It tells a story. It’s often the last memory loved ones have of someone cherished, and it’s the deceased’s introduction to a sea of strangers. A well-done obituary is the final word on how a person is remembered.
Does it make sense now? We're in the "sea of strangers" meeting new people, sort of, and a well-written obituary is excellent reading. I love learning about the old timers who left college to go to war and then returned to marry their sweethearts, finish college, have kids and grand kids. It sounds so romantic. I wish I knew them.
You do know the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral?
One less drunk!
One less drunk!
I almost managed to write a post about St. Patty's Day without ever mentioning the other habit for which the Irish are famously known.
That is also a family habit.