Death is certain. When, how remain as questions

I scan newspaper websites for news, ideas and — lately — obituaries of those I might know.

At 70, we see death as a frequent visitor.  Every morning begins with a scan of news sites in areas where we have lived over the past 55 or so years with emphasis on the obits section.  That means a look at who died in Florida, Virginia, Illinois and Washington, DC.

Too many mornings bring tears.  A visit to The Telegraph in Alton, Ill., where I served as a reporter, photographer, columnist and editor over 12 years from the late 60s to the early 80s, brought notice of the death last week of a lady I knew and dated back then.

The same happens with visits to The Roanoke Times site — my professional home from 1965-69 or death notices in the Washington, DC, area — our home for 23 years,

Facebook sometimes bringS the bad news.  Other times email is the messenger.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter in 1789.

My first personal contact with death came in 1949 when my father died in an industrial accident in Tampa, Fla.  I was too young to comprehend what was happening then but my mother said I cried and kept asking “where’s daddy?”

An elementary school friend died in an auto accident while we lived in Farmville in the late 1950s.  Lost another friend in high school in another crash.  Too many that I knew died in Vietnam in the 1960s.

Too many deaths.  A child and her children in the 1990s in another vehicle crash still leaves a void that can never be filled.  A friend and colleague who went to Iraq to cover the war in 2003 died there — not from combat but in a Humvee crash.

Amy lost her mother and father late in the 1990s.  My mother died in 2012.  Since returning to Floyd in 2004, I have lost several friends from high school, including my best friend who served as best man in my wedding, and the woman who gave me my first drink of alcohol and introduced me to other pleasures of life.

Five years ago, after returning from a long hospital stay from a motorcycle accident that doctors told Amy would kill me, I spent a Friday afternoon working with Tom Ryan on his Republic of Floyd website.  We planned to finish it up Saturday morning but he died earlier that morning from a massive heart attack.

Folk singer and activist Pete Seeger once said he began each day reading the obits, not so much to see who else had died but to make sure he was not in there.

“If I’m not in there, then it’s OK for me to get up and face the day,” he said.  He died four years ago at age 94.

This morning’s scans did not bring up any familiar names in the death notices in Florida, Virginia, Illinois or Washington, DC.  My names wasn’t there either so I guess it was OK to get up and face the day.

Another day keeping the grim reaper at arm’s length.

“Some people die at 25,” Franklin also wrote, “and aren’t buried until 75.”

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