Larry Tjarks: 01/30/39 -- 07/27/09
When I was asked to write my dad’s obituary, a lot of things ran through my head: How do you sum up a life in three paragraphs? What’s the one thing you’d want a stranger to know about your father? What do I want to remember about him?
So my mom and I asked the funeral director how the process worked. He told us the standard price for an obituary is $600, but they could do more or less depending.
It’s crazy; cavemen may have not had our technology, but I doubt they had to spend their life savings to bury their loved ones either. People just came as a sign of respect and to lie to the family about what a nice person the deceased was and that was it. Was it really too much to ask for -- that for one day, someone could acknowledge my father lived and breathed and shared a part of the human condition?
But I thought about it, and it kind of was. Millions of people live in Dallas; a couple hundred die a day. You can’t print a hundred-pages of obits; there wouldn’t be room to talk about the Cowboys. So the paper has to make a economic decision on the value of a human life.
In the obituary section, next to all the nice-looking pictures and life stories, there’s a list of names going down the side of the page. Even when you die, class divisions don’t go away; if you don’t have enough money, that’s all you are. A name.
It kind of puts our lives in perspective: maybe we really aren’t these unique snowflakes destined for great things. Maybe Oprah lied to us. Maybe we’re no different than ants, small cogs being spit up and chewed out by a vast and uncaring world we’re only dimly aware of. A world that won’t even stop for a minute to acknowledge we existed.
A world, where when one of your parents die, they’re going to tell you to hire an acquaintance to watch their house during the funeral. Because robbers read the obituaries too, and they know that’s the best time to jack someone.
My mom didn’t have the same hesitation I did. She paid the fee; it never crossed her mind not to. And at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters: that your life had an impact on at least one other human being. That’s what I’ll remember about my dad: that after being sick for over 15 years, someone still cared.