‘Life' has meant as much to me as it has to you

Friends and readers, today is my last day at the Observer. This isn't so much a “goodbye” as it is a “so long, see you later.”

After 30 years in the newsroom and 17 years of writing the “It's a Matter of Life” column, I am retiring. Sort of. I want to take some time off, then hope to write more columns after the first of the year.

I started out writing the obits back in the day when they were done in the newsroom. I always felt that the departed deserved more than “name, occupation, death, funeral and survivors.” This told little or nothing about who that person was, who she loved, or what hobbies he enjoyed.

Funeral directors had more information than our rigid little form would allow and that didn't seem quite fair. The deceased needed recognition for their accomplishments, even if it was only baking the best biscuits on the block.

Family Bibles are the most likely resting place for these obituaries and they should tell as much about the loved one as possible. It is a bit of history that the family will share and preserve for generations to come.

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed writing “It's a Matter of Life.”

Some of you even sent gifts, which I had to return – except flowers and food, of course. Cannot return food!

I especially enjoyed talking to the weeping widow or the sobbing spouse, who brightened immediately when I asked one question: “How did you meet?” They were suddenly back in the moment, in awe, in love, in adoration.

I listened as the pain and sadness melted away with the spoken words that recalled happy, funny, loving times. Reliving these memories seemed to help so much and I could hear the change in a voice: the sigh of relief, the easing of sorrow.

Sometimes I sat silently and ached with the tears being shed on both ends of the line. Sometimes, that's all that is needed, just the sharing.

There were funny times, too. We printed the ones we could; the others well, I just shared a laugh with the family.

I hope to do that once again.

Until then, I am in the phone directory. Or e-mail me at gerryhostetler@carolina.rr.com. I'm also working on creating a Web site at gerryhostetler.com.

Let's keep in touch, shall we?