Intersections – Obit
By Nicki Salcedo
Three famous people died this week. I saw it in the news. Death always come in threes, they say. Except I’m not superstitious, and I wonder about a fourth. We become fascinated with someone after they die when the days before, the days when they were still breathing, we didn’t care.
A series of media tributes appeared for each of the deceased. I had no clue who two of them were, so I looked up them up. It turned out that I still didn’t know who they were. One had written books that had been turned into movies. He was a neurologist. I never read any of the books or saw the movies.
The other guy was a motivational speaker. His name didn’t ring a bell. None of his motivational quotes were familiar to me. I wondered what kind of rock I’ve lived under not to know these men. Then I got to the third person.
Wes Craven. Of course I knew who he was. Partly because of the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street,” but mostly because Wes Craven first introduced me to Johnny Depp. I liked scary movies when I was a teen. I’ve heard it argued that it is not proper to like scary things. Women especially should not like horror movies. This from a society that only loves you when you are dead. Yes, we are very macabre indeed.
By researching the neurologist and the motivational speaker, I broke one of my cardinal rules of media. I have three rules. Never read the news. Never ever read the comments. Never get caught in the time-suck of googling celebrities you don’t know.
I make an exception for obituaries. Those I do read. I wonder about the things remembered about another person’s life. When my dad died, people said lots of nice things about him, but nobody mentioned how much he liked blueberry muffins. I once brought him a blueberry muffin from Cakes & Ale, and my dad said it was the best muffin he’d had in his entire life. Possibly true, but more true was how he universally enjoyed blueberry muffins. Those aren’t things put in the obituary.
People never know the secret things we do. Bad or good. My dad found out that his friend’s adult son was in the hospital in Atlanta. The son, who was divorced, did not have family in the area. His ex-wife and kids were in another state. He was alone in getting the final stages of his cancer treatment at the VA Hospital on Clairmont Road. My dad could not stand the thought of someone being alone. He would go and sit with this man he had only known as a baby. My dad would bring food and sometimes my mom would go with him.
The obituary of my father mentioned his wife and kids and church and education. The place of your birth matters to some and the place of your death matters to others. We like to see the distance and imagine the journey between places. We like to see dates that span 80 years. We like to know all the secrets. Then we are comfortable with death.
No one mentions the blueberry muffins or holding a dying man’s hand.
My family likes taking walks in the cemetery. It is a place that feels alive if you imagine the journeys documented on the tombstones. If I wrote the official obituaries, they might be silly. If I were asked to eulogize anyone, it might be funny.
“Here lies Wes Craven. He introduced me to Johnny Depp, and he loved birds. I will miss him.”
This might be more respectful than attributing a false closeness to someone I never knew. Of course, I could thank him for the scary movies. I did enjoy those so much. Even the bad ones. My relationship with my dreams are still a bit strained thanks to Freddy Krueger.
I will take a curious peek at and keep a respectful distance from the next obituary I see. I’ll keep the blueberry muffins and the birds, not the most notable things in the world, but these are the parts of us that don’t die.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.