Friday, April 14, 2006

Where lives amaze us

I have always found the point at which biography, memoir and obituary intersect to be a fascinating one. While biography should be scholarly and accurate, memoir is allowed to be subjective and incomplete. Obituary however, is the journalistic take on each, with a focus on brevity. Some of the most fascinating obituaries are not of the rich and famous, who are so well covered during their lifetimes, but of people who led relatively obscure, though purpose-filled lives. The quiet man at the end of the road Charles Shepens, who invented amazing surgical techniques, diagnostic instruments, saved hundreds of lives in the Second world war, and personally risked his life on many occasions, yet told no one about it, until it was discovered only a short time before his death. How about the artist Joash Woodrow, working on his own all his life, whose works were discovered as they were about to be destroyed and he was to be placed in a nursing home. The discovery led to many exhibitions, but his mind had detreriorated too far for him to appreciate it.

Obituaries, particularly of seemingly ordinary people help us to realize that ordinary people can be quite extraordinary. This can give us a new appreciation of friends and neighbors.

No comments: