My wife is an avid obituary reader, mainly to make sure that neither of us are mentioned. Judging by the looks of those who have “passed away,” we might not recognize ourselves. The following are samples from the Waco Tribune-Herald.

This week the paper has pictures of Baptists, Catholics, and Lutherans. Baptists seem to be the most prevalent but occasionally there is the picture of an outright pagan or atheist. Veterans in uniform are quite common.

Sometimes the departed are “surrounded by family,” hopefully without negative consequences. Some have so many relatives that asphyxiation would surely occur if all the family were there, prior to death.

Most of the deceased are going to heaven, or so we are told. PHJ (not her real initials) always wanted to visit Italy and see all the beautiful paintings. She never did, but the obituary suggested that “We think she did that on the way to heaven.” Perhaps there are no paintings in heaven, so she needed to stop in Italy.

With the death of PL, “Heaven has gained a special angel.” Pure speculation, of course, but a nice thought—which is what obituaries are supposed to convey. HL, on the other hand, simply “joined his heavenly Father.” Fittingly, it was on the fourth of July and occurred amidst fireworks.

I don’t know about PM going to heaven because she was “an avid bridge and polka player.’ in addition she was a sorority member, homemaker, United church member and worked as an Avon Lady. She did have the “companionship of several dogs, including Barney and Clyde and Lucy,” who—depending on one’s theology— may meet her in heaven some day.

About HC: “When she was finished, she was taking shorthand at 230 words a minute and typing over 100 words a minute.” I think that means when she finished college, not life here on earth. We don’t know, but those skills may be transferable in heaven.

Usually the “survivors” are listed: sons, daughters, in-laws, out-laws, grandchildren, great grandchildren, step-sons and daughters, and even relatives who are beyond and above. Also mentioned are spouses, cousins, best friends, fishing partners, and sometimes a favorite dog or prize bull as well. Most common the “love of his/her life” is left behind (even as the spirit of the corpse goes forward).

People are often not buried anymore—they are “interred” at the local Grace Gardens, the Peaceful Home cemetery, the Soft Cloud Sanctuary, or the Memorial Park. Some people are cremated, which brings down the cost considerably because steel and concrete vaults are not ideal for burning. Instead, a simple cardboard or pine box is purchased, which burn easily.

EM learned how to “deinstitutionalize people with disabilities” and MG hand-picked cotton in fields (where else?), worked at cleaners and cafeterias and did housekeeping. Still, she lived to be 96 and had 12 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and 4 great-greats! She must have been some cotton picker.

The photos of veterans are often included in obituaries: DJA looks pretty chipper for a 96 year old and was a flight officer and in the military for 35 years. Sometimes an old veteran will allow their current photo on the obit page, but not often. Even veterans aren’t supposed to look old when they die, so an early military photo is included in the obit.

EFM will be remembered for being a devoted mother, grandmother and for her love and devotion to God, family and friends. She was 85 and a Baptist and had been married 67 years—pretty good, even for a Baptist!

HM died at a relatively young age and while attending a family reunion. He enjoyed “fishing, camping, hunting, playing golf, gambling and grilling. It was probably the grilled hot dogs that got him at the end.

HB bought and sold cattle “all over the U.S. and Mexico for over 50 years,” and was “a devoted Aggie and a member of the Dairy Association and the 12th Man Club.” He went to A&M games until his vision failed. That would not have mattered if he had been attending a game of the Cowboys.

ESR was a “die-hard Texan,” shown by the fact that she lived for 96 years—proving that it must have been hard for her to die.

MMM was 84 when she died and there was a Rosary and Mass recited for her. She “enjoyed working in her flower garden, camping, embroidering and taking gambling trips to Louisiana.”

CRJ was Chaplain in the army who, at the time of his death, “was surrounded by his loving wife of 65 years.” (She must have been a big woman!) CRJ pastored his first church at the age of 18, attended seminary, was ordained, and then completed 23 years of military service. He was weighed down with medals and awards and, upon retirement, tended more than 1,000 rose bushes “with great care.” His wife of 65 years lives on, surrounded by roses.

LSR was a Baptist who “grew up on Live Oak Street” with some siblings and, we hope, in a house. There are, of course street-people in Waco, but they don’t live on the street. We know LSR had a home because “she filled the home with both music she wrote and worship songs.” She must have had a strong back as well because she and her husband “carried Bibles into Eastern Block countries under communist control.” She had a daughter and then “almost immediately thereafter” (but we presume at least 9 months) gave birth to her only son.

Those who have cared for the departed often thank the nurses and doctors, hospice, Parkinson’s Foundation, the Comfort Dog Ministry, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Alzheimer’s Association, various temples and churches, members of the family and, once in a while, even the pastor or priest.

Summing it up for the week: all the customers were good looking, had high IQs, went to Baylor and wished to be Baptists.