Jonathan Tjarks

Jonathan Tjarks
December 31
A basketball writer who occasionally delves into public policy, popular culture and society. All of my articles are collected at

Jonathan Tjarks's Links
Editor’s Pick
JULY 27, 2011 5:08AM

My Father's Obituary

Rate: 7 Flag
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.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Thank You. I read OS`The Most Recent Post.
I noticed you had 30 readers. No comments.
That is about the same as the SPAM reads.
What a Open Salon?
Is this Place a Joint?
It's a Crying Shame.
I'm sorry for your loss, Jonathan. You ask very poignant and important questions, and I think you've answered all of them. As someone wrote to me, "the stars stare down at me, remotely uninterested this speck of human life.." But it isn't the stars that matter; it's that someone cared, your dad mattered.

MOC (r)
It's criminal what newspapers charge to run obituaries. I learned this the hard way last November when my husband died. There should be a grand obituary writer who eulogizes everyone, equally, for free, three paragraphs, more or less, the story of a life.
I'm sorry for your loss, Jonathan. Your dad's life had meaning, in that you and your mom and others cared for him.
You packed a good punch with this blog. It left me with a lot to think about. I think you have the key in mentioning leaving behind family that loved your father. Not everyone can claim that.

I am sorry for your loss. May your father know peace now from the illness you mentioned.

I am very sorry for your loss. It is a terrible thing to charge to have an obituary run, in this age of garbage journalism, perhaps if they focused on obituaries, they might learn the value of people who have come and gone, the way they lived, the message their life conveys to their friends and family and all who read about them. No, we have to read, for free about all the crap, the drug and sex scandals, overdosing celebrities and their addictions, no, we need to honor the people who have passed in our communities with dignity and share their legacies. We might all be better for it.