The story of death is the story of life.

Behind the dark specter of death is the glorious light on someone's life. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
Behind the dark specter of death is the glorious light on someone’s life. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

BLESSED ARE THOSE who put life into death.

The joy of life.

The way Joy did.

I just read an obituary about Joy.

About joy.

About life.

About joy and life in death.

Joyful obit.

Joy, who died in her mid-90s, was game for anything, the obit said.

At a granddaughter’s graduation and at age 77, she rode a horse around the property.

She jumped on a trampoline.

She jumped on the back of her son’s Harley-Davidson. Must have been in Hog heaven.

Sipped champagne in a hot tub well into her 80s.

Came up with her own signature drink, the “Joytini.”

Full, involved, get-every-ounce-out-of-it life: Tomboy as a child. Loved riding her horse, Judy. Cultivated flowers – and friends. Long, meaningful marriage. Long, fulfilling work life. Traveled much of the world. Made much of her own world right there on her own front porch, where she cheerfully, graciously greeted neighbors and others.

“Joy to the world,” the family put it.

Roger Summers
Roger Summers

No service planned. Just give a toast to her. Maybe a “Joytini.”

Brings joy to my heart.

Taking note of death, funerals is too sad, too somber, too sorrowful, too draining. Too much given to boosting sales of Kleenex, handkerchiefs.

Too little telling the story of the joy of life. The zest of life.

Too much mention in obits and elsewhere of the name and rank and serial number of the one who is gone.

Too little of the joy – the sheer joy – that that person brought.

Those stories abound. Yet, those stories often go untold. And are lost.

In another place, at another time, an average of forty-three obits passed through my newspaper desk daily.

Submitted mostly by family members. Mostly, name, rank, serial number.

Too often, the joy was missing.

The story of who the person really was.

The story that mattered.

The obit subjects were members of Congress, former mayors, corporate chieftains, small business owners. More.

Plus, bookkeepers, bus drivers, police officers, factory workers. More.

Of all of these, the one indelibly in my mind was the one about “Bill.” Mostly name, rank, serial number. But there was one line – one single, solitary line – that spoke of his joy.

It said he raised “prize chickens.” Bill worked on a county road crew – hot, sticky, tiring, demanding, exhausting, low pay grade work.

Relief from that, surely, were the prize chickens – Bill’s story of joy. Still wish I knew the fuller story.

Me? Just a simple, quick graveside thing. No letting loose of doves. Maybe a couple of minutes of Michael W. Smith’s inspiring Glory or Freedom to justify the time and trouble of those who might show up.

No proselytizing, please.

Nothing to increase the sale of Kleenex and handkerchiefs.

Just five spoken words, five simple words which I think accurately, succinctly wrap up what the One who came along more than two thousand years ago tried to tell us and which we keep trying our dead level best to overstate and make complex:

Look out for each other.

After that, go gnaw on a rib. Sip something. Pick up your own tab, though. I spent all of mine. Or gave it away for something more worthwhile. Or never had it.

So, here’s to you, Joy.

I raise my “Joytini” in honor of you.

For all the ways you and others bring joy.

For putting joy into life.

Putting life into death.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author. Roger is the author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road.

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