An intangible benefit of writing the NewsCut blog and some other blogs I pen are the connections blogs can make between unrelated people.
I've already written, for example, about how the connections created by a tornado and the reach of the Internet helped a widow in a tornado-ravaged city in Indiana get a picture of her husband back from a man in a Cincinnati suburb who found it on his lawn (that picture, by the way, was returned to Marta Righthouse Tuesday evening).
Then there's this post from 2009 about the first person killed in the first Gulf War. Every year on the anniversary of his death, it seems, I hear from a member of the family who discovers the post via Google. The Internet and its search engines make it hard for people to be forgotten.
Today I was reminded again of the "connections" the Internet can give us.
My brother, Mike, died last week in Massachusetts and I was asked to say a few words at his graveside service. So I told the story of Everett Ek of Rochester (left), whose obituary appeared in the Star Tribune last week (you can also find it in the Rochester Post Bulletin). I'm a big reader of obituaries, especially the ones that capture the personality of the individual, rather than follow the boilerplate copy that renders most obits sounding like the one before.
Everett Ek's wasn't like that:
Everett enjoyed his final days. He shared a visit with Kellen, his great-grandson, on Saturday. "Papa" made scrambled eggs for his granddaughters, Alahn and Korah, Sunday morning after their stay over. Monday, he went cruising on his Harley and cleaned out his man cave, aka the garage. Tuesday morning found him savoring a Grain Belt in his man cave with Bob, a morning coffee klutch buddy. Later, when he went out to work in the yard on that beautiful day, he fell to the ground and was gone. Everett and his dad each lived their lives to the fullest, 72 years and 48 days.
Because I told Mr. Ek's story to a group of people 1,200 miles away, many of them also shared the stories of my brother -- the motorcycle rides he made and his habit of showing up for camping trips with 10 pounds of pork chops and only 10 pounds of pork chops. None of it was headline material; all of it provided a much more valuable snapshot of his life, more than any company he worked at or award he received.
Everett Ek died this week after making scrambled eggs for his granddaughters and because he did, you know that he once was on this earth and mattered. A woman loved purple, another loved her fax machine, and my brother just got his last ride from some other good and decent people.
I posted my remarks on one of my personal blogs. The phone rang in the NewsCut cubicle today. "This is Mrs. Everett Ek," she said, and I knew immediately who she was. A relative had also found the post via Google and called her to say, "you won't believe it."
She said she didn't want the obituary to be like all the others so she told it to a friend who wrote it. Today, I learned that Mr. Ek, who apparently always wanted to ride a motorcycle, finally did so at age 69 at his wife's urging. He was the oldest person in the motorcycle safety class at the community college, a class that called him "Papa."
They had a nice funeral, she told me, especially when they opened the doors of the church to hear the person outside revving up the engine on the motorcycle. It was a Catholic mass with the usual amount of standing, sitting, and kneeling. A faithful family dog attended and sat and stood as custom dictated.
None of these things is "headline material," and yet these are the threads that connect us. Because a man in Rochester made eggs for his granddaughters, a man who loved pork chops died in Massachusetts, and some guy in Saint Paul writes a blog for a living, we are never really forgotten.
How I love you so, Internet.
Photo top: via Ek family
Photo bottom: via Collins family
Dang it, now I'm crying at my desk. After a friend sent me the post because she was crying at her desk. Cubicle tears metro-wide.
Pass the kleenex, nk. There's something in my eye, too.
I love you Bob Collins
The open tear duct epidemic has reached the southern coast of California.
Once again, Bob Collins makes me cry. I will take comfort in the knowledge I am not alone.
I should just have my hankie ready before I dial up NewsCut. Thanks Bob. This is pretty headline worthy as far as I'm concerned.
More obits should be written that way. Not just the facts, but a description of who that person really is
I am only one reader, but I 'm sure that many of your readers share my feelings. I missed you last week on Newscut, and hope you remember your brother well.
And here WE all are, being connected through tears elicited by reading News Cut.
Wonderful post, Bob!
Makes me think of Keiffer Southerland's new vehicle/tv series which appears to be about connections among and between people around the world, aided by a boy with an autism diagnosis (he may or may not have it). There's definitely a sort of fantastical element there, combined with the kind of spiritualism you get from physicists, but the kind of connections shown in the pilot made for some intense and tear-jerking tv. I'm looking forward to the so-called "world premiere" of the series tonight (this, after the pilot aired twice already?).
This is a beautiful post. Thank you.
Excellent post. Thank you so much!
Another regular obituary reader here. A great column - thank you. Sincere sympathies upon the loss of your brother.
Nice. A good birthday present. Love the photo of the bikers.
I'm Everett's sister and know what it's like to lose a brother who really lived/loved. Aren't those words synonymous? My heart goes out to you in your loss, too.
Is it just me, or are there more obits with personal flavor in yesterday's Strib than usual? I'm looking at Ann Potter, who "would always brake for yard sales or thrift stores"; Frances Rand who called herself "a feisty old broad"; Mitch Spector who had a dozen different nicknames; and Carol Voight whose friends will celebrate her life with a bike ride next weekend. It could be that reading your blog post last week has me seeking the specialness in loved ones' remembrances. At any rate, I'm thinking about your perspective as I notice the real-life reflections in this week's obituaries. Cheers.