Susan Soper's Blog (66)

Food, Friends, and Non-Stop Talk... Death Cafes Are Alive and Well

Death is one of the facts of life people are uncomfortable talking about. But there is a growing movement taking hold in the United States – and around the world – encouraging conversation about this once taboo topic often referred to as “the elephant in the room.”


“It makes sense that the concept is taking off in America,” blogged Sally Abrahms for AARP. “These independent-minded, I’m-not-going-to-take-it-lying-down boomers are exploring the last frontier. They’re…


Added by Susan Soper on June 28, 2013 at 4:00pm — 1 Comment

My Dad’s Obit – Redux

Susan Soper and father George Between my mother’s slow death, at 45, in 1968 and my dad’s sudden passing in 1996, much had changed about how we process those losses and the grief that follows. What hadn’t changed so much was the way deaths were announced in obituaries: death notices were still, for the most part, fairly straightforward without much flourish or fanfare. Not many of the special traits and eccentricities that make us all unique were included in those days.


But with The New York…


Added by Susan Soper on June 14, 2013 at 8:00am — 2 Comments

Reconnecting Through Obituaries

Since I'm the only one of my siblings living in the town we grew up in – Atlanta – I am often the bearer of sad passings of friends from our childhoods. I monitor the obituaries daily and often send one to them, knowing they will be interested: A best friend's elderly mother, a favorite teacher, a boyfriend's dad and, just this week, an old boyfriend himself.


"He was the first boy I ever kissed," my sister Wendy said. "It was very awkward. I had just gotten braces…


Added by Susan Soper on April 30, 2013 at 2:30pm — 1 Comment

Home Run to Heaven

As the St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks play their opening game of the 2013 season on April Fools’ Day, there is a “team” of fans who will be watching with particular nostalgia. The grown children of John George Hendel who died March 16 will no doubt be thinking of their dad, who was a fan of both teams as he was born in St. Louis but lived and died in…


Added by Susan Soper on April 1, 2013 at 8:00am — No Comments

Lessons in Living from the Dearly Departed

Funeral and memorial services can be “by the book” with very little personal input or take-aways for friends and family, but, increasingly, eulogies may include some pointers on moving forward.


Here are some examples of how obituaries and memorial services speak to us and what we can learn.


Be an organ donor!

A celebration for the life of …


Added by Susan Soper on March 19, 2013 at 10:00am — No Comments

Good-Bye, Hello and Good-Bye

One of my resolutions this year is A Drawer A Day – trying to weed through and edit out clutter – clothes, kitchen utensils, books, cosmetics, candles, shoes, scarves, CDs, old tax returns and even photographs. You know how you might have five versions of the same photo, with only slight variations? I now sit in front of the fire and MAKE myself pick one!


Because I am an inveterate clipper, my files on death, funerals, grieving, obituaries, rituals,…


Added by Susan Soper on February 19, 2013 at 1:00pm — 1 Comment

Life Lessons to Live for the New Year

I have been hanging on to this wonderful list of life lessons waiting for the New Year to let them loose. They were allegedly written by 90-year-old Regina Brett for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.


In reality, Brett is much younger – not much more than half of 90. She’s been writing award-winning columns for the paper since 2000, and when she turned…


Added by Susan Soper on January 21, 2013 at 4:00pm — No Comments

Remembering Children: Obituaries Full of Accomplishment and Optimism

Five Danbury, CT residents tie balloons to an overpass up the road from the Sandy Hook Elementary School (AP Photo/David Goldman) Obituaries for children should never have to be written. Of course they are – every day, all over, for countless reasons – but perhaps never more heartbreakingly than this week, in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in…


Added by Susan Soper on December 17, 2012 at 10:00am — 1 Comment

In lieu of flowers...

As we head into the gift giving season full steam ahead, I’ve been paying particular attention to the “gifts” that are suggested in obituaries – the donations made to honor a person’s memory their favorite charity or their life’s work.

For years I have sent checks to whatever followed the phrase “in lieu of flowers,” but it seems now that, like everything else connected with dying these days (memorial services, do-it-yourself obituaries, funeral attire, parting gifts, etc.),…


Added by Susan Soper on November 30, 2012 at 4:21pm — No Comments

Chocolate Bonds

We all know that blood is thicker than water.

In my family, blood is made up of equal parts: red cells, white cells and brown cells. Those would be the chocolate cells that run gooey in the Soper gene, so thick, in fact, that a timeline of bonding with my dad can be traced from earliest childhood treats to more sophisticated adult indulgences.

The Sunday night drives to Howard Johnson’s for a quart of hand-packed chocolate ice cream (the superior brand in…


Added by Susan Soper on October 10, 2012 at 3:30pm — 3 Comments

Words to Remember Them By

Obit writing has become so full of personal detail and anecdotal material that many of them now have at least a few lines that resonate with an image or words you might read at breakfast and find yourself repeating at lunch or around the water cooler at work.

As an avid obit reader (and writer) I like to save these gems to savor and share. Here are some that have recently crossed my radar screen. Each of them, to my eye, paints a small but telling piece of a life – some of…


Added by Susan Soper on September 28, 2012 at 9:30pm — 1 Comment

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust…

Milton Fields Green Cemetery, Georgia It was just about two years ago when Steve Sall, 61, lost his fight with ALS and was buried according to his pre-planned wishes: in a “green burial” in the White Eagle Memorial preserve on Sacred Earth Foundation land in Southwest Washington. A hiker and mountaineer, Steve loved the outdoors and wanted to become a part of it. “I figure my best shot at immortality,” he spelled out for his wife, “is to stay engaged with the earth’s life cycle.”

Green burials are definitely…


Added by Susan Soper on August 29, 2012 at 3:00pm — 1 Comment

Visiting the Dead in the Dog Days

Hollywood Hills Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons / Kafziel) Each morning, my husband and I wake up to Morning Edition on NPR and usually hear a jarring barrage of campaign orations, weather reports, or obituaries.

At this rainy August dawn, I picked up on something that’s apparently been going on all summer but escaped my drowsy attention: A series called Dead Stop – featuring visits to cemeteries and burial grounds across the…


Added by Susan Soper on August 16, 2012 at 1:00pm — 3 Comments

Directing Your Final Exit: Lessons from Nora Ephron about Death and Dying

U.S. director Nora Ephron, left, and U.S. actress Meryl Streep are seen during a photocall for the movie 'Julie and Julia' at the 35th American Film Festival, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009, in Deauville, Normandy, France. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler) Nora Ephron once said she wanted everyone at her funeral to be “a basket case.” And they were. From family members to famous celebrities – 800 invited guests, including her ex-husband, Carl Bernstein. But that doesn’t mean humor and heartfelt tributes were absent in the New York good-bye to the journalist-author-screenwriter-producer-director-cook. According to news accounts,…


Added by Susan Soper on July 23, 2012 at 8:30am — 6 Comments

“Everything is Copy” — an Homage to Nora Ephron

This Nov. 3, 2010 file photo shows author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron at her home in New York. Publisher Alfred A. Knopf confirmed Tuesday, June 26, 2012, that author and filmmaker Nora Ephron died Tuesday of leukemia in New York. She was 71. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, file) Nora Ephron was forever young and forever funny. And all of a sudden, she’s gone!


So many of us could relate to her writings, musings, movies and books – not to mention a failed marriage or botched film that made her really human to her fans. When I was starting my own writing career in Washington, D.C. in the early 1970s, she was writing essays for…


Added by Susan Soper on June 28, 2012 at 12:00pm — 10 Comments

Father and Son, Pure and True

Assuming that every day should and could be Father’s Day, it’s not too late to take note of a good dad’s day story I want to pass along – something I heard Sunday on Bob Edwards Weekend (Public Radio International) that really offered a touching footnote for the day.


Edwards was interviewing…


Added by Susan Soper on June 19, 2012 at 10:00am — No Comments

Wearing Fatherhood on Your Heart

On Father’s Day 1996, I gave my dad a leather chair and ottoman to replace the one he had worn the leather off of – especially the arm and head rests – from hours spent reading, talking on the phone, chatting with whomever was sitting across from him having a cocktail. Yes, probably even dozing. It was meant to be the ultimate gift for his years of love, guidance, nurturing, advice, mentoring, tennis, discipline and devotion.


Two weeks later, he died very suddenly…


Added by Susan Soper on June 14, 2012 at 5:00pm — 2 Comments

Long Live Brown Dog

Last year for Memorial Day, I celebrated the life of Staff Sergeant Ryan Patman Means who lost his best friend on 9/11, joined the U.S. Army, received his Green Beret and served his country in Iraq until cancer cut his life tragically short two years ago – just days after the birth of his second daughter in a hospital across the street from where he was being treated for bile duct…


Added by Susan Soper on May 27, 2012 at 8:41pm — No Comments

Obits Aren’t Just for People

Cats forever (Flickr Creative Commons/kevin dooley) I’ve been noticing more pets being mentioned among the survivors in recent obituaries and have also become aware that some papers (most of them in small towns) are running pet obituaries among their paid obituary notices. In their how-to templates they offer guidelines for what to include in an obituary for an animal friend: cause of death, favorite memories, where to send condolences, who to list among survivors (including blood relatives).


There are also many…


Added by Susan Soper on May 18, 2012 at 12:00pm — No Comments

First Mother's Day without Mom

Rochelle Bozman and son Journalists are great carriers and receivers of information – particularly when it comes to news about each other. We tend to stick together. Facebook has made that even easier to trade information, tidbits, blog postings and personal news whether happy or sad.

Last fall, one of my former colleagues at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution died – a single mom leaving a 10-year-old adopted…


Added by Susan Soper on May 11, 2012 at 10:30am — No Comments

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