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Paul Smith: Read Me The Death Notices Please

Read Me The Death Notices Please Dear

NZ Media Comment By Paul Smith

"Read me the death notices will you please dear" she said handing me the Herald.

It was both request and perceptive solution. This was my first assignment as a visitor to the elderly and Ellen's first experience of having one. When our trickle of niceties was in danger of drying up, she reached for the obits.

All of them? I asked.

"That would be nice" said Ellen, who was nearly 90. I began reading, pausing after each name. Sometimes she'd stir in the mobile bed in her living room and ask for maiden names. She'd shake her head and sink back into her pillows, a sign that I should read on.

So it went for every visit and we chatted and laughed in the sunlit room overlooking her rose garden. After the obligatory obits, I'd read from her favourite books.

I looked forward to the visits, but they were interrupted when she had to be taken to hospital. Once discharged she asked me to come and read again, but the Ellen I'd known had clearly deteriorated. She'd made it to Christmas she said, adding she didn't much want to.

Ellen didn't recognise me the last time I called. Then she rallied and holding my hand, whispered: "Another time perhaps".

Ellen passed away a week later. And, just as she would have expected, I went to the Herald - and read her death notice.


Paul Smith Paul Smith is the founder and publisher of a site written by boomers for boomers.


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