Death Notices


They post obituary notices on bulletin boards along the streets here.

I find this oddly fascinating.

Back in my days as a newspaper reporter, I wrote my share of obits. I was in a car accident when I was 27, and I fractured my pelvis. It grounded me from my regular reporting on the police beat for a couple of months. Crutches aren’t really conducive to running around chasing breaking stories. So I was assigned to writing “feature obits” about notable people in the community.


I kind of loved it. I was the reporter who was often mistaken for the social worker when I showed up at a crime scene. I had to knock on a lot of doors where the people inside were having the worst day of their lives. It made me empathetic, or maybe it just brought out that trait in me.

Writing obits was sometimes a job pushed on interns so they could learn story structure and get some practice. I never considered it grunt work.

I liked the challenge of it, especially in the days before the internet, when I got to do some research and chat with the newspaper librarians (a job that probably doesn’t exist anymore). I had to learn how to hit the phones and talk to people, how to do things accurately on deadline. I gained confidence finding ways to sensitively ask grieving families to open up about someone’s life. And I found a real art in writing a good obituary.


Here in Croatia, in this strange place with its old-world traditions, looking up from worn cobblestone streets to see death notices doesn’t really seem morbid. It seems like you could stand here and witness the circle of life.


It’s funny that it strikes me that people here still read newspapers. I sat in a café and worked on my laptop this morning, and I was the only one with a laptop. The café was not full of people on their phones, like I see at home. They were talking and reading, but mostly they were in small groups talking.


I don’t know if the newspaper here runs obituaries or if funeral homes post them online, like they do in America. But I do like watching people noticing death notices posted on the bulletin boards. It’s the ultimate revolving door, where the news of the day replaces yesterday’s. And in its place, life goes on, and someone else takes notice.