Not one human that has entered this life has figured out a way to avoid it.
There is the tale of Juan Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth and there are modern Ponce de Leons that search for the magic answer to delay aging and prolong life.
But as far as I know, no cure has been found for life, which only ends in death. At some time, we all will lay our bodies down.
Years ago, somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, a couple of my mother’s friends passed away. For a short time, I became obsessed with the fear of death.
But after reading the obituaries in our local paper, I soon realized that most of the people that die were much older than both me and my mom. And I stopped being afraid.
Less than a few years ago, I stopped reading obituaries — there were too many for people my age.
I belong to a Facebook group of high school classmates. I used to rush to open it when I received a notice of a new post so I could read the news of a former classmate’s life and family.
But now I hesitate out of fear that the post will bring sad news of another classmate who died way too early.
As editor, I had to break my ban on reading obituaries now that on occasion the responsibility of proofreading them falls on me.
My fear of proofreading obituaries has nothing to do with AP Style and the long and complicated series of commas, semicolons and parentheses that are a necessary part of each obituary.
Instead, my fear comes from the emotional reaction to some obituaries, as well as others that remind me I have not been a good neighbor.
I read one for a young man recently who apparently died by suicide.
After reading the wonderful things about this young man and his life, I put my head down on my desk and shed a tear. Then I lifted my head and shouted silently, “How can we stop this?”
A quick text to, and a reply from, my friend John Gossett, president of the Life’s Worth Living Foundation, and I was ready to go on.
Then there was the obituary for a young mother. Married for a short time, she left behind a husband and I think it was three small children.
I didn’t know her, but I remember reading the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” by John Donne in high school.
“No man is an island … each man’s death diminishes me … For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee,” he wrote.
My heart sank as I thought of her and her family.
As a young reporter — about 10 years ago — I was assigned to the Tooele City beat. That’s where I met Shirley Beagley. She attended all the city council meetings and sat right behind me.
Shirley would always tell the council members “speak into your microphone.” She wanted to hear what they were doing.
We talked before and after meetings.
When I started covering Tooele County, I noticed that Shirley and her husband John, were one of the few members of the Tooele County Commission meeting’s frequent flyer club.
They both were one of the few regular attendees of County Commission meetings.
I read with sadness of John Beagley’s death last month. I thought I should call Shirley, send her a card, or something, because I wasn’t going to be able to attend the funeral.
I never did anything and then Tuesday I proofread Shirley’s obituary. Too late now.
Shirley’s obituary wasn’t the only one that caught my attention on Tuesday.
I recognized the picture of Joe Garcia. Joe lived on my street.
I met Joe when I first moved into my new house 22 years ago. I was the block captain for emergency management. As part of my duty, I had to go around the block and collect information from each household about potential emergency needs.
I remember meeting Joe and talking about his wife’s health.
I never talked to Joe again. But whenever I drove or walked by, and he was outside, he waved at me and I waved back.
In April 2016 I read that Joe’s wife, Cora, had passed away. Again, I thought I should do something, but never did.
Then in May 2018, I read the obituary for Fran Garcia. I knew Fran; she was on the Tooele City Planning Commission when I covered Tooele City. I didn’t know until I read the obituary that she was Joe’s daughter.
Again, I thought I should do something, but I never did.
My score at being a good neighbor is now standing at least 0-3.
I’m trying to decide if I should let somebody else proofread obituaries, or instead of thinking that I’ll do something sometime, next time I will go and do something today.