Harry Stamps Obituary–Why are people reading it?

I am sure some of you have read part of this obituary which has gone viral.  It is the obituary written by one of Harry Stamps’ daughters.  Part of it reads:

stampsHarry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.

Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.

The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President…

To be honest, my first gut reaction after reading the obituary was to nitpick at some of the details or even question if the life descried was really the full life it is being viewed as describing.  But instead, let me ask this.  Why is everyone reading it?  Why do people care to read an obituary of a man they do not know?  We could note that it is simply well written.  But I want to suggest there is something more simple that explains it’s viral status.

You know who writes most obituaries?  The funeral home.  And how do they do it?  Essentially it is a somber mad libs project.  They stick in names and dates into a script and out pops the obituary.  Why does the funeral home end up doing this instead of the family?  There are two reasons, the first truly more important than the second.  When death comes quickly, and it always does to the grieving regardless of how much time they had to prepare, the brain has so much to think about that writing an obituary is the last thing they prioritize.  If someone else will do it, they are relieved.  The second reason is that obituaries written without regard to length are more costly that you might expect.

I think people are reading this simply because it is unique.  It stands out from all the other rather formulaic obituaries.  And this should be of note to us Christians.  In many ways, our obituaries are our last witness to the world.  Do we want them to simply be lost in the midst of all the others.  I do not want that.

My suggestion?  Write your obituary before you die.  Leave blanks for the parts that will have to be filled in.  Include spiritual dates and events.  And most of all, give testimony that your life and death has meaning first and foremost because Jesus has given it meaning through his death and resurrection which riches you have come to know and receive in his Holy Christian Church. 

We all know that that getting people to listen to our witness about Jesus can sometimes be hard.  But if people are reading Harry Stamps obituary mostly because it is unique, perhaps they will read yours for the same reason and come away called by the Gospel through the work of the Holy Spirit.  As for cost, buy a few less flowers and print the obituary far and wide.  Tell your tech savvy friends to share it freely.  Maybe the Gospel could go viral.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 12:14 pm and is filed under News Clippings, Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Harry Stamps Obituary–Why are people reading it?”

  1. Steve Hatesohl Says:

    Pastor,
    I have always maintained that writing your own obituary can be a very healthy exercise. Only you know what you would like to be remembered for. While writing it, you may come to realize that you haven’t accomplished all that you want in life, and it can serve to motivate you to stop waiting around to die, and to get busy living!

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