Aug 12, 2019

Vale Julia Margaret Bryan and Beatrice Carmen Holme


So, who are Julia Margaret Bryan and Beatrice Carmen Holme? I am very much hoping that they are the thin edge of a wedge, or a sign that the tide is turning, in the way that death and funeral notices are generally written in Australia.

Please, let me explain. The bottom line is that I am an obituary lover. Not (I like to think) in a morbid way, but I am interested in the stories of lives fully lived. So, the irregularly featured lengthy obituaries that sometimes appear in Australian newspapers are a must read for me.

And, for me, a rare treat is getting hold of a weekend New York Times. In them, I can immerse myself in the many columns of privately inserted obituaries recounting the lives of the recently deceased, frequently with a photo, and written with much eloquence, detail and feeling, and often with an apparent degree of frankness, so that the casual reader can get a glimpse of who they were in life.

Needless to say, I have – therefore – long wished for something like that in the Deaths and Funerals notices of my Australian newspaper of choice, The Sydney Morning Herald. Up until now, however, just about all that we are told about the much missed departed is the list of mourning family members together with sad expressions of their loss.

From time to time, nonetheless, I do scan these, for possible crumbs of information. So, you can imagine how I felt when doing one of my random searches in the August 3-4 weekend edition. And found, amongst those notices, not one but two obituaries that do tell us about the lives of two women who – clearly – were well-liked individuals making the most of their lives and contributing much to those about them, in various ways that are described economically, yet movingly: Julia Margaret Bryan and Beatrice Carmen Holme.

So I am writing this now with the aim of encouraging others to follow this approach and produce a similar last hurrah for the people whom they love, in a farewell that tells the world something about the lives that they forged for themselves, as well as noting those whom they have left behind, to tell the tale.

On a personal note, I will be sending a copy of this piece to my daughters, to let them know that this is what I would like them to do for me, when my time comes. They will probably think that I am being morbid…

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