Zia Hassan

Reading Through Obits

+++ title = “10” date = 2018 +++

A few moments after my son was born recently, I had what David Allen calls BFO, a Blinding Flash of Obvious. This is a term used to describe thoughts that are obvious in hindsight but kind of revelatory in the present. BFOs are how most of the best fiction and comedy are written.

My BFO: many people are born every day, and many die every day.

Not much information exists on those who are born today, there’s no public registry of births, and even if there was, there’s not much to know about babies at first other than they poop, eat, and cry.

Obituaries, on the other hand, should give us some insight on the lives of those who have recently passed. And there’s a site called legacy.com that logs obituaries from around the country. So I went browsing through the site and noticed a pattern – almost every obituary talks about the preceding and succeeding family members of the deceased, and the deceased’s relationship to them, but almost none of them give any extra information about the person.

Sure, you’ll see that one was a “loving mother” or a “dedicated grandfather.” But what else is there to clue us in on the legacy that these folks leave behind?

Where’s their body of work? The thing that will live forever, whether in print or on the internet?

And it occurred to me that many people don’t have a body of work. Don’t have a website or a twitter where we can acquire their thoughts and perhaps use them to guide us in our lives.

When I read an obituary, I want to understand who that person was, and what their lasting influence is. What did they believe? What did they stand for? How did they change or influence the world (as everyone does, even in a small way)?

Perhaps we need a new site for someone’s legacy. A place where we can store their body of work so that they can live on and influence us in the present. A graveyard where the ghosts of thoughts, innovations, and invention can live on and haunt the world in a positive way forever.