Lives They Loved.
December 22, 2011 5:20 AM   Subscribe

The Lives They Loved. The New York Times asked readers to send in a photo and short story of someone they lost this year.
posted by katinka-katinka (26 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Terrific. And it proves you don't need journalists to produce great content for a news site. Or shall we say, you need more than just journalists, because journalists simply can't find these kinds of stories.

BTW — don't bother trying to select thumbnails. Just click on the first picture and and keep hitting Next.
posted by beagle at 6:45 AM on December 22, 2011

I don't know if it was my slow connection or if it's supposed to do this, but the images popping up one by one to fill the screen was surprisngly affecting.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:50 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got about 10 pictures in (to the little boy with the Disney fairy dust in his hair) and had to stop.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2011

posted by badger_flammable at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2011

It was Christopher Court (the young boy) who finally got to me, too.

But this is a fantastic project. I don't know why I'm surprised to see it--maybe our society's typical approach of pretending death doesn't happen--but I'm glad it's out there.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2011

I was surprised to see one person listed there -- her work is the subject of a post I'm working on.

This is a beautiful project. Thank you very much for posting it.
posted by zarq at 7:40 AM on December 22, 2011

Thanks for this.

It's a tough time of year for a lot of people, and it's good to know that we're not alone.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:47 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can't do it. My boyfriend lost *both* of his parents this year - mom in August, dad in December - I've watched and experienced far too much grief this year. :(

Not for nothing, but come on 2013, don't suck in that way, please?
posted by tristeza at 7:53 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I knew putting on mascara this morning was a bad idea. It's now all gone.
posted by Leezie at 8:02 AM on December 22, 2011

If only all newspaper obituaries could read like these instead of a dour list of survivors and arrangements.
posted by ladygypsy at 8:41 AM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wonderful stories. Thank you for posting.
posted by cass at 8:46 AM on December 22, 2011

Why do I keep going back? They're beautiful stories, but this isn't good for me at all.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:54 AM on December 22, 2011

This comment is too infuriating to stand.

And it proves you don't need journalists to produce great content for a news site. Or shall we say, you need more than just journalists, because journalists simply can't find these kinds of stories.

How did these end up in the NYTimes magazine, then? You think submissions from the public are always these poignant, polished, succinct gems? Because they're not. I've read straight submissions from the public, and they are crap. Turning people's snapshots and memories into this is journalism!

As for why all obituaries aren't like this? They are paid advertisements placed by families. They are not journalism.
posted by purpleclover at 9:16 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just found a heartbreaking picture submitted by a dear friend and mentor of mine.

Watching him deal with the aftermath of that loss from afar has been brutal. I hope submitting the picture has helped to bring him some peace.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:12 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just lost a very close friend of 14 years, 19 days ago. Every time I think, hey, I'm getting over it!... something like this pops up and kicks me right in the jumblies.

I'm super glad my officemates are both on vacation because holy cats, I am covered in snot and mascara. Ugh. So beautiful, and so damned hard to look at.

(We haven't had my friend's memorial service yet, but we're planning to do something very much like this -- everyone is being encouraged to bring a photo of her and a story to tell about her, and we're going to collect them all and bind them into a book for her 7 year old daughter. It's going to be awesome, and it's going to suck so much to put together. I miss her.)
posted by palomar at 10:26 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is really great. Sad, but great. A lot of tragedy but a lot of celebration also, and so many old and interesting photos. I was actually quite touched by those who sent in a photo/story of a neighbor.
posted by Glinn at 11:14 AM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey purpleclover, sorry to infuriate.

Sure, I realize that these are a curated selection culled from many submitted. But I doubt if they were edited or written as you seem to imply. Most of them are first-person, and in fact, some of them still have the typos in them from the folks who submitted them, so they were minimally edited, if at all. Most of the journalism is in the writing, which is by readers, not reporters. My point is that we need more of this kind of crowdsourced storytelling.

And, not all obits are "paid advertisements placed by the family" — many newspapers still write their own obits from information submitted via the family or funeral home. However, I think ladygypsy's point is that those obits are often the dry, dour, formulaic ones (outside of the NYTimes and a few others with real pros writing them). Elsewhere, quite frankly I find the obits published as submitted and paid for by the family to be much more interesting than staff-written ones. If grandma liked to crochet, the family version might have a detailed paragraph on it, while the clerks generally assigned to format obits in smaller newspapers would edit it down to a single phrase.
posted by beagle at 12:59 PM on December 22, 2011

What beautiful tributes, but they're so very heart-wrenching. I'm sitting here bawling my eyes out.
posted by jessian at 1:16 PM on December 22, 2011

My step-father's photo didn't make the curation cut. This is still bringing me a bucket of tears today.

I'll be really glad with 2011 is over.
posted by DigDoug at 1:51 PM on December 22, 2011

This feels like the right place to drop a link to my comics memorial to an animation school buddy who died this month.
posted by egypturnash at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

DigDoug, I am so sorry to hear about your step dad. My dad passed away this year too. I want to ask to see pic of your step dad and know about him, but I don't want to seem rude. Is it less rude to say that?

Anyhow, I would love to hear about your step dad or anyone else's loved one who they lost.

This feature was really moving to me, and sort of surprising to me what I responded to. There was one person who took a picture of the sun rising every day and another who only got to know their mom over the phone. For whatever reason those two stories really touched me.
posted by katinka-katinka at 4:01 PM on December 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Re: regular obits. I feel like while they are dry and dour, if you have a family in shock or distress writing them, it helps at that time to have a formula. If I had written my dad's obit by myself, it would have been a lot different then what we came up with once my brothers and mom weighed in. it also seemed like we had to get enough info about plans in that people would know where/when to go, and some identifying info so their friends who might not be in contact all the time know they have the right person.

That said, after this feature appeared on NYT site and my mom and I were talking about it, she said she saw an obit recently that listed someone's cats as survivors, and she wished she had listed my dad's dog.

I think this NYT feature is important, because as six-or-six-thirty pointed out, we don't really talk about death much at all.
posted by katinka-katinka at 4:17 PM on December 22, 2011

Great except that the inclusion of a dog is inappropriate
posted by knoyers at 6:03 PM on December 22, 2011

I was doing okay through these until I got to the one about Jack Halpern (5th from the last). The e.e. cummings line his daughter quotes is one from a poem that has been on my bathroom mirror, printed out and pasted into a wedding card for years:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

The root of the truth and the bud of the sorrow is that carrying these hearts is a heavy burden (for now and forever)... thereafter I lost it.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:19 PM on December 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I read the New York Times site today and it appears that they have taken their most valuable piece of the year (the year end Lives They Lived greatest hits obits of the year) and completely fubar'd the sucker. This year includes no: Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse, Elizabeth Taylor or Christopher Hitchens. Jack LaLanne's is a half paragraph written by his 95 year old widow.

This is one of the saddest things I have ever seen on the internet. Thank goodness I didn't pay for it!
posted by bukvich at 8:46 AM on December 23, 2011

The editor of the NYT magazine's own father passed away as this issue was finished. One More Life We Loved.
posted by katinka-katinka at 5:08 PM on December 23, 2011

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