There is a smell that comes with them now, with writing.
Five months ago an e-mail was sent around my Cambridge college seeking people willing to write obituaries for deceased alumni. Help was required to quell the awkward backlog that had accumulated. Nobody said awkward; the words used were ‘unfortunate situation’. Deaths each year were increasing – up to a hundred at times – the unfortunate situation was a backlog, ‘a cause of distress to relatives of the deceased’. Much more than unfortunate, surely. Unfortune on unfortune, piling up in sheets in files in cabinets, and a lot of distressed eyes wanting person on paper. It’s an awkward thing, having to explain why a person isn't on paper yet, when they have been dead for over a year. It’s an awkward thing to gather information from mourning mouths or old hands writing to memorialize a friend, and then having to explain why these tokens lie heavy, dead wood in a file. (more...)