Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/02/12


obituariesNo doubt you either went to bed last night, or woke up this morning to the news of the untimely demise of pop sensation/diva, Whitney Houston.  Whatever your opinion about her:  greatest voice ever; talent sacrificed to drugs; bizarre marriage to and divorce from bad boy Bobby Brown; her life and death will likely be part of at least a few of your conversations in the next few days.  It’s what we do when people, especially famous people, die.  We pause, we catch our collective breath in the initial shock, we reflect, we talk.  One thing I also do, and maybe you do, too, is pray.  Yes, I pray for dead people.  It’s something I’ve done for maybe 30 some odd years now.

I don’t recall exactly when I started the practice, but I do know it’s something I felt called to do.  Not for some morbid reason, but rather for something I think was kind of sweet:  what if someone who died didn’t have anyone to miss them?  What if there was someone who died who had no one to pray for them?  It seemed kind of sad and lonely to me, so I decided I’d pray for everyone who passed.  I do it every day, read the obituaries in my local newspaper online, and say my little prayer:  God, please grant peace to their souls, and comfort to all who mourn them.  Please grant peace to the souls of all who have passed worldwide, and comfort to all worldwide mourners.  Amen.

I wonder about how some people’s passing garners more attention than others.  For example, Farrah Fawcett died on exactly the same day as Michael Jackson.  The glamor girl died of a very unglamorous disease:  rectal cancer.  Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died amid suspicious circumstances.  People still talk about Michael Jackson’s death, even more than they discuss the impact he had on the music world.  I haven’t heard anyone mention Farrah Fawcett in a really really really long time.  And not a lot of chatter about rectal cancer has been heard, either.

Whitney Houston’s passing will likely take up a ton of press space over the next several weeks.  Sad that she’s gone, but sadder to me is the fact that her death will eclipse the loss of two other really impressive and kind of heroic people in this past week, too:  Jeffrey Zaslow and Jill Kinmont Boothe.  Zaslow, you might recognize, was a respected columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and an author, who brought Randy Pausch‘s The Last Lecture from the world of YouTube  to the literary world. Randy Pausch taught the world great lessons on living even as he battled with and died from pancreatic cancer in 2008.  Zaslow was killed in a car accident in Michigan this past Friday.

Jill Kinmont Boothe was a heroine of mine.  In 1955, at the age of 18, she was critically injured while competing in downhill skiing, an event in which she was an Olympic hopeful and favorite.  Her neck broken, Kinmont became a quadriplegic.  Her story became a movie in 1972, called The Other Side of the Mountain.  In 1972, I was 10 years old.  Kinmont became one of my heroines.  She had not chosen to give up on life after her accident.  Rather, she learned how to use a paintbrush, she learned how to use her voice, she learned how to become a teacher.  She learned how to live despite the devastation, and inspired countless others to do the same.  When she died last Thursday, she was 75 years old.

Another person passed last week, the same day as Jill Kinmont Boothe, my friend, Teresa.  Teresa was a member of the Gilda’s Club Nashville Monday Night Wellness Group, which I’ve been privileged to be part of since July o f 2010.  She joined the group last year after she was diagnosed with brain cancer:  glioblastoma multiforme.  This is a particularly insidious cancer (although, really, what cancer isn’t?), with tentacles that reach out from the main tumor, and can grow into different parts of the brain, disrupting body functions and causing personality changes and wreaking all kinds of havoc.  We in the group had witnessed Teresa’s decline in the past two months, and knew that when we saw her last 3 weeks ago, it would be for the last time.  Teresa was the same age as Whitney Houston when she died on Thursday: 48.  She will be remembered by those who knew her as a devout Catholic who attended mass every single day, who wanted to bring happiness to those around her, and who loved all things Christmas and long-haired dachshund.  There will likely be far less water cooler conversation about Teresa than there will be about Whitney, but I guarantee you that those who mourn Teresa will do so as hard as do those who mourn Whitney.

But what’s the bottom line for a missive like this one I’ve written today?  Well, here’s something for you to maybe take away from all this talk of death and obituaries:  An obituary is a  notice of someone’s passing.  It gives facts of birth and of death, causes of death, listings of survivors, and often times, listings of life accomplishments.  It is that final piece, I think, which is of such great importance.  We like to, and need to, I think, know how people spent their time on this earth, what they did that was noteworthy, how they may have helped make the world a little better place, who they loved.  We may not find the meaning of life this way, but certainly we learn a little more about how to find meaning in life.  It makes me think of the movie, Ever After, a Drew Barrymore flick from some years back which retold the story of Cinderella.  At the end of the movie, the narrator, the great-great-granddaughter of Cinderella, is speaking to who we are led to believe are the Brothers Grimm, and she says, “My great-great-grandmother’s portrait hung in the University up until the Revolution.  By then, the truth of their romance had been reduced to a simple fairy tale.  And while Cinderella and her Prince DID live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they LIVED.”

May you have a week of great living, and moments of remembrance for those who have moved beyond,

Teri, the Flying Elephant



  1. Your posts are always thoughtful and inspirational. Thanks for the thoughts about how everyday people are heroes too! It reminds me of the book that asks “for whom the bell tolls?” and says that it tolls for us all because every one of us is a part of the whole. We are diminished by every loss.

  2. Well said!


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