I had not regularly bought a Daily Newspaper for many years until we of The Master Mind Alliance decided it should be a requirement to buy one every day of week 17. OK, it’s no problem, I can read the sports pages on paper just as easily as I can read them online I suppose.
But it was not for the sports pages, It was for the obituaries, we agreed to read at least one obituary every day.
I have never read an obituary in my life…or at least if I have I soon put it out of my mind.
But I can follow instructions even if I am not sure I understand why sometimes so I bought The Times each day and searched for the obituaries…which are incidentally, conveniently close to the sports pages.
The were a few about people I would possibly never have heard of if they hadn’t chosen to die this week, others I probably should have heard of but hadn’t, like Princess George Galitzine, (real name Jean Dawnay) who was told she was ‘far too ordinary and not tall enough’ but became the first Englishwoman to model for Christian Dior in Paris way back in 1950.
There was Alexander Chancellor, The Spectator editor and ex BBC Chairman Sir Christopher Bland. There was Mary Tyler-Moore, Alan Waldie who blessed us with the Heineken adverts and the Benson & Hedges gold sardine tin.
Ronald Webster led a revolution to lead the island of Anguilla back to British Colonial rule checked out aged 90 in December as did Ljobo Sirc.
Sirc was imprisoned and sentenced to death aged 27 by communist dictator Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia but he escaped and became a great economist in the more forgiving capitalist UK and made it to age 96.
He said his prison term was the making of him because it taught him all about economics. Now that’s what you call making lemonade when life deals you a lemon.
Naked Civil Servant and Elephant Man, Sir John Hurt said goodbye to planet earth on January 25th…now he didn’t seem to be the cheeriest of souls so he might have fancied another shot at it.
I never would have guessed that so many people were just queuing up to die…and unless I had bought all these newspapers I would probably not have known how many people were wishing it was the newly elected American President instead.
My youngest son (together with his twin Nathanael) didn’t know that all this morbid coffin chasing was going behind the door of his dad’s private office but he had been after me to watch a documentary film with him for a few weeks. Finally I caved in, well really it was his Mum who caved in, and the timing was amazing as ever. It was ‘David Bowie-the last 5 years’ and was the story of a man who had clearly foreseen, predicted, orchestrated, filled in all the gaps, kicked the bucket list right up in the air and written in song, film and even a stage play his own obituary.
Intriguing, challenging, moving and defying all expectations I will confess to wiping a tear or two away from the corner of my eye. I remember sitting on the carpet as a 13 year old boy one Thursday evening when my Dad came in from work raving about this song that he had heard on the car radio and hoped was going to be on Top of the Pops. It was…a curly haired fresh faced boy sat on a stool singing about an astronaut called Major Tom. I loved it, Dad loved it and now my 16 year old boys love it too. I understand Mr Bowie (real name Jones) declined when offered a knighthood saying that was not what his life was about.
In the 5 years he fulfilled his dream to write and produce a musical, he released his final album on his 69th birthday and died on cue 2 days later. People said it was a great loss. I think it was just the final act performed to perfection.
David Bowie’s body of work will be seen and heard alongside those of Beethoven, Mozart, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, and every other genius who has left a legacy in their field…
I was surprised to hear that Og Mandino read an obituary every day but now I am beginning to understand why
…at the end of the week we found out for sure why WE were reading the obituaries… the exercise continued with the instruction to ask yourself 3 questions…
Question 1. Would that person whose obituary you have just read love to change places with you and have 1 more day?…Maybe… but I don’t think so. Certainly not with David Bowie but I think most of them had done what they were supposed to do…I am not the judge but I suspect at least one of them might have appreciated the extra day.
Question 2. Who can I let know how grateful I am for their presence today if it is my last day?
Question 3. How will I behave today to finish the masterpiece of my life elegantly.
Og Mandino asks the question in scroll 5 of The Greatest Salesman…
‘Why have I been allowed to live this extra day when others, far better than I, have departed? Is it that they have accomplished their purpose while mine is yet to be achieved?’
He has had us repeating for the last 30 days in the previous scroll
‘I am not on this earth by chance I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain not to shrink to a grain of sand.’
My purpose is written on paper in my own hand and typed on my computer and all my electronic devices but more than that I am told and I firmly believe that it was written long before I was born, even before the foundation of the world and so I feel safe and secure while my eyes are focussed on it… I cannot leave until it is complete because only I can complete it.