Over the Hill

What an obituary can say about life

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx

I’m an avid reader of obituaries. By the way, have you ever noticed how often the word “avid” is used in obituaries, such as “He was an avid horseshoe pitcher,” or “She was an avid reader of vampire books?”

As a connoisseur of obituaries, I have read tens of thousands of them, and one clearly stands out. It was about a man who died March 1, 2006. I liked it so much I cut it out and thumb-tacked it to the bulletin board over my desk.

I liked the way it was written. But more importantly, it made me like the man it memorialized, although I’d never met him. He seemed to have been cheerful, generous and philosophical. He was Victor C. Osejo of Pismo Beach.

He seemed to have those charming qualities despite having known tragedy, wounds and hard work. Two years after he was born in 1916, his mother died in the worldwide influenza pandemic of 1918, leaving him to be raised by an aunt. During World War II, he saw combat with the field artillery and was wounded. He required a year of treatment and recuperation.

For 27 years, he was a construction worker and truck driver. Then in 1962, he and his wife, Elvira, opened Vera’s Café in Guadalupe, which they ran until they sold it in 1985.

But Victor still wasn’t ready to devote his life to the rocking chair and TV. He became a driver for Meals on Wheels and for an organization that took kidney dialysis patients to their treatments. He continued doing that until 1997, when he was 81 years old.

I started to read his obituary with my usual skepticism because we all know that obituaries don’t mention the deceased person’s faults. I can guarantee you that my obituary won’t mention my anxiety, untidiness and procrastination. But after I read Victor’s favorite saying, I was quite willing to overlook any or all of his possibly unmentioned faults.

His obituary said his favorite saying was, “You’re born, you reproduce, and you die.” To me, that indicated he saw himself as one of the Earth’s many living creatures, such as migrating salmon or dandelions, who fulfill nature’s purposes and support life.

So I was willing to believe his obituary when it said, “Victor loved life and enjoyed his grandchildren, hunting, fishing, dancing, singing, swimming and playing his guitar.”

It also said he was a skilled mechanic and enjoyed playing cards, attending family reunions, going to Las Vegas and Reno, Nev., and shooting dice.

Now you know why I have the obituary of a man I never met, Victor C. Osejo, posted in my office where I can see it. I believe he successfully avoided taking life too seriously.

“You’re born, you reproduce, and you die.”

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.