A minimalist approach is probably as fitting as any

Reckonings column, by Della Mallette, July 22 Grand Forks Gazette.

Earlier this year, our editorial columnist (and former reporter) Jim Holtz took a break from writing to concentrate on his health, and his family.

In the meantime, we featured the conversational writing of Boundary Creek Times reporter Pat Kelly, and the historical anecdotes of Grand Forks native Milton Orris. Eventually, reporter Craig Lindsay and I began to each write a column.

Jim always made it seem so easy, to write a column each week that was interesting, informative and engaged our readers. Craig and I are writing only every second week—and I don’t know about Craig, but I’m not finding it near as easy as Jim made it look.

As I write, I try to think of what Jim might write about, what Jim would think of my ideas.

One idea I had, and wrote about a month or so ago, was about obituaries. Jim was not well, and I’m sure he didn’t read it, but for personal reasons he was thinking of obituaries as well.

In his own words:

~~~

We place importance on a person’s last words, on final statements, on epitaphs carved on tombstones.

A person may speak millions and millions of words in his or her lifetime, but it is the last few words that we want to hear. For many, the last words are written about them in an obituary.

The obituary writer is supposed to summarize the deceased person’s life. That isn’t easy. What should be included? What left out? And of course the writer always wants to convey to the reader the kind of person the deceased really was; the limited space makes that difficult.

There isn’t room to tell the stories of specific kindness and generosity, of hard work and ambition, of differences made in the lives of others.

No, the incidents that define a person are too lengthy to be included in an obituary. Instead the writer makes statements like: “She was kind hearted,” or “He was a devoted father,” or “He always stood up for what he believed in.”

Maybe it is for the best that obituaries are short and to the point. They are after all only a sort of exclamation point placed at the end of a person’s life. “Take note for the last time,” they say; “he/she did live, did laugh, did suffer, did make a difference.”

Sometimes a person’s last words tell more about the person than his/her obituary.

My father’s good friend Al was a perfect example. He was a serious and successful man who took on many responsibilities with his church, the Rotarians, the Elks Club and many other volunteer organizations. His obituary listed all of that, of course, but never mentioned the aspects of his personality that endeared him to my father.

The day he died of cancer, my father visited him in the hospital where he lay, pale and thin and shot full of morphine. Just before my dad left, Al motioned to him to bend down so he could tell him something. When my dad leaned over close enough, Al smiled and whispered, “It must have been a bad bowl of chilli.”

That’s not a bad exit line. I am tempted to use it myself, but my fabulous and amazing wife, Judy, makes all our chilli and so I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate it. And really, in the grand scheme of things, a more minimalist approach to a final statement is probably as fitting as any:

“!”

In memory of

James R. Holtz

May 2, 1946 – July 18, 2015

– 30 –

 

Just Posted

West Kootenay highways a mess as heavy snowfall continues

‘Roads are very icy, people have to be patient and have to slow down’

Over $25,000 raised for Columbia Basin literacy

Success for 2018 Books for Kids campaign

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

Grand Forks bantam team takes Nelson tournament

The team dominated the competition with some outstanding displays of skill and technique.

Donate to the Grand Forks and District Public Library

The library is undertaking significant washroom renovations.

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

Humboldt Broncos, cannabis, Fortnite: Here are Canadians’ top Google searches for 2018

When celebrities died or Canada Post went on strike, Canada turned to Google

B.C. billionaires worth 5,845 times average middle-income household

Economists argue for changes to Canadian tax system benefitting rich

Condominium market still ‘a lot better’ than normal in Vancouver suburbs

The Fraser Valley, east of Metro Vancouver, has long been considered a more affordable haven for first-time homebuyers.

Retired B.C. teacher a YouTube Sudoku sensation

A retired Kelowna teacher has amassed quite the following online by teaching the art of solving a Sudoku puzzle.

UN chief returns as climate talks teeter closer to collapse

Predictions from international climate expert, warn that global warming is set to do irreversible environmental damage.

Trump’s willingness to intervene in Meng detention roils Canada’s justification

The International Crisis Group said Tuesday, Dec. 11 it’s aware of reports that its North East Asia senior adviser Michael Kovrig has been detained.

Scientist awarded $100K for work on Arctic contaminants that led to ban

Derek Muir has received the $100,000 Weston Family Prize for his research that showed those carcinogens were able to move into the Arctic.

Manhunt continues for France shooter

Suspected gunman named, had long police record

Most Read