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Publication: Dear Abby
Obituary Photos Can Be A Window Into The Past

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       DEAR ABBY - June 10, 2008 
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OBITUARY PHOTOS CAN BE A WINDOW INTO THE PAST

ABBY: I just read the letter from the reader (April 7) 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.

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:


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.


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.

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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


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


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


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




ABBY is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as 
Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline 
Phillips. Write ABBY at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box  
69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069. 
____________________________________________________________

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