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The Goddess Speaks

By Cathy Lee Chong

Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Finding life
between the
obit lines

I never used to read the obituaries in the newspaper. After all, unless someone I knew had passed away, I had no reason to run my eyes down the list of dearly departed.

But now, I actually take time to read the obits -- the names of strangers and their ages, occupations and list of survivors -- and I wonder about each person and his or her life. Why did he or she die so young? Or how did he or she manage to survive so long?

Some people leave behind big families, and others leave behind a few. The length of the obit is usually the measure of a person's fame. Those best known are allotted space for an expanded news article and photo. Yet, how can an editor decide who gets the coverage? Each life mattered.

After the last name has been read, I sometimes wonder when or why I started reading the obits.

Maybe it's my age. When I turn 39 this year, I'll be officially pushing 40. And I find this to be a peculiar perspective. I am too young to feel I should be shopping for a cemetery plot, but too old to wear anything extremely fitted, much less that mini-skirt I pranced around in during college. I am too young to retire, but old enough to know that climbing one's way up the career ladder is not everything in life.

LATELY, I find myself doing other things I never did before.

I don't let office politics get to me. What goes around comes around.

When a stranger's car nearly side-swiped my car to steal the parking stall that I was clearly waiting for, I grinned and attempted to let go of any irritating thoughts. If this person had to resort to sneaking into my space, he needed it more than I did. Maybe he had to pee.

I spend as much time as possible with my 9-year-old twin daughters, because I realize more and more that their childhood is fleeting as are my early years of motherhood. My own small kid days have been long gone.

I listen very closely when my parents or my grandmother speak to me. When I drove through Kalihi on an errand with Grandma, she saw the sign, Peterson Lane, suddenly remembering and telling me that her grandparents once lived on that street. Someday, in the far off future, I will cross Peterson Lane, spot the street sign, and recollect Grandma telling this story.

I hug my kids and husband each chance that comes along, because I have learned that every embrace or "I love you" exchanged between us is like money in the bank. The returns will come back tenfold in the years ahead, and I'll need to dip into this savings when times get hard. I've heard the teen years are rebellious ones, and they're just around the corner.

When it comes to my husband, I let go of miniscule aggravations and try to look at the big picture: We are partners for life.

Who cares if he's flipping through television channels too fast for my taste? Life is too short to battle over the remote control.

Life is short, period. And each day, I am reminded of how a person's life mattered and ended, as listed in the papers.

Perhaps I started reading obituaries, not because I am fixated with death, but because I am obsessed with living.

Cathy Lee Chong is director of
communications at Iolani School.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802, or send e-mail

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