In this trying time, death notices are tragic but also, sometimes, quite consoling.
An example: On March 22, 2020, the New York Times published this notice of Dr. Salah Al-Askari’s death. He lived more than ninety years, a great span. He was an accomplished physician and researcher whose life and skill benefited many others.
One particular is that in 1967, Dr. Al-Askari performed the first successful transplant of a kidney from a cadaver into a living person, and today, more than fifty years later, that kidney recipient is still living.
That fact makes, no doubt, that person’s day. And it made mine.
I am a regular reader of obituaries – while I recognize and often feel the human sadness that surrounds them, I am an obituary fan. They’re filled with fascinating history, both private and broadly public. They prompt thinking and perhaps new reading, listening and sightseeing. When researched and written with care (see, e.g., the obituary page in each issue of The Economist), they can be special literature, often on much more than the departed.
To start the new year, I recommend Campbell Robertson’s New York Times article, Miller Williams, Plain-Spoken Arkansas Poet, Dies at 84. (The January 3rd print edition headline was even better: “Miller Williams, 84, Laconic Arkansas Poet.”) And I send my condolences to his daughter Lucinda Williams, whose music I will listen to this morning.