I just read the letter from the reader who was bothered by the use of youthful pictures of the deceased in obituaries. I have heard that criticism before, and it baffles me. People aren't just who they were at 84, the age when they passed.
What offends me are obituaries that describe the person as "lovingly tending her tomatoes" or "a bingo devotee." Why aren't they described as the sum total of who they were in each stage of their lives?
All of us make a difference in the world each day because of our presence. And it's our whole lives that do it, not just the most recent few years. There are so many things on this Earth to criticize. A photograph that was chosen for someone's obituary should not be one of them.
- Donna in Concord, N.H.
DEAR DONNA: I agree. However, readers' views on this subject were varied. As one person pointed out, your obituary photo may be "the only time you get your youth back." Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I discussed "Just Call Me Snapshot's" letter with my mother. She suggested that maybe the people in those pictures were the picture-takers in the family. I know I rarely appear in family photos because I am the one behind the camera. Perhaps a more recent photograph of the loved one doesn't exist!
- Susan in Bloomingdale, Ga.
DEAR ABBY: The use of photos of the deceased in their prime is nothing new. Look at the death masks and statues from ancient Egypt. No one was depicted ravaged by time or illness.
- Robert from Columbus, Mont.
DEAR ABBY: Your reply to "Snapshot" was that this is the way for a loved one to be remembered in his or her prime. However, I have a more correct - and cynical - answer. It's a larger source of income for the newspaper.
The fees for obituaries are exorbitant. A simple Sunday announcement can run more than $200. The "helpful" editors have all kinds of stock phrases they offer that increase the size of the ad - and that's exactly what it is - and bump up the cost. Grieving families often don't realize the cost until the bill arrives. Like "Snapshot," I find it ghoulish, just another way to soak the grief-stricken.
- Paid the Bill, St. Louis
DEAR ABBY: The reader who objected to people using old photos instead of recent ones in obituaries is obviously still young. When she looks at me she sees the white hair, the sagging skin and other signs of aging, but my image of myself is still youthful, dark-haired and fit. I would like to use a younger picture for my obituary - it's who I am.
- Sometimes Shocked at the Mirror
DEAR ABBY: The writer of that letter overlooks the 20-year-old photos of living people that we see so often in print media. These people have also aged (as we all do), and frankly, the use of an outdated picture is an insult to our intelligence. I see as pure fraud putting forth an image that is not truthful. There oughta be a law.
- Candid Photographer in the Present
DEAR ABBY: Wait a minute. I appreciate those old photos. They give me a glimpse into people's lives - who they were, and who they became. It has also given me a sense of my own mortality. Those images remind me that I, too, am marching on, and I should spend time wisely and make every day count. *
- Another Picture in the Paper