Dear Abby: "Still Alive in San Diego" (Nov. 22) said she reads the obituaries every day and feels somehow disappointed when she doesn't see a name she recognizes. She asked if it was "weird" and you told her yes, that it seemed like a lack of empathy.
I don't agree. What's happening is this woman is lonely and the activity has become the hub of her day. It gives her something – sadly – to look forward to and a sense of closeness to her acquaintances when she recognizes their names.
My advice to her would be to find another way to fill the void and not obsess about the obits. Joining a club or taking up a physical activity would allow her to meet people. I'm betting she will feel less of a need to connect to the obituaries if she expands her social circle to include the living. – Been There, Too, in Rhode Island
Dear Been There, Too: Your point is well-stated, and it was echoed by other readers who, like you, read between the lines of "Still Alive's" short letter.
Dear Abby: If the letter-writer is ill, disabled, elderly or has outlived most of her companions, it might explain her "letdown" when no one she knows appears in the obituaries. Seeing a familiar name may bring back memories of better times and make her feel more connected to the outside world. – Julie in Wisconsin
Dear Abby: An obituary is more than a death announcement. It tells a story. It's often the last memory loved ones have of someone cherished, and it's the deceased's introduction to a sea of strangers.
Obituaries are scrapbooked and prized, and researched for generations by genealogists, historians and relatives looking to complete their family tree. A well-done obituary is the final word on how a person is remembered. – Sandy in Pennsylvania
Dear Abby: Some people, whether or not they live and associate with friends and family, feel a certain emptiness in their lives and look for different ways to feel SOMEthing emotionally. Finding the name of someone they know, especially in an obituary, where some of the person's biography is included, provides the opportunity to feel compassion toward that individual or even feel grateful to still be alive. Not finding a familiar name can seem like a missed opportunity to experience that. – Loyal Reader, Arlington, Va.
Dear Abby: Please tell "Still Alive" she isn't alone. I have often wondered why I look through the obituaries half-hoping to see someone I know. I suspect it may be similar to how people slow down to view a car wreck. I'm a sympathetic, caring person; I don't consider myself weird or cold-blooded. – Empathizing in Honolulu
Dear Abby: I, too, am a daily obit reader. I have lived in this town for more than 50 years, and I know a lot of people here. When I see a name I know, or the name of a family member of a friend, I take the opportunity to send a card to express my condolences.
And, by the way, your column appears on the same page as the obituaries in my local newspaper, and I'd never want to miss a day of Dear Abby! – Big Fan in Tucson
Dear Big Fan: Bless you!
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.