"Orange Face" Syndrome

May 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Have you noticed?  Are more and more of us dying of "orange face" syndrome or is this just my imagination playing tricks on me?  Last Sunday in the obits in the Dallas Morning News, 14 out of 25 people had "orange face" syndrome.

And do you do it?  Read obituaries in your local newspaper?

  It all started innocently enough.  I have read obituaries for years.  When living back in New Jersey, it was a small town, and more than likely you knew the person who had died or someone related to him or her.  And then I moved to the Dallas area.  I would sit at the breakfast table with my cup of coffee and peruse the obits... not because I would know anyone but because every once in a while I would stumble across an interesting obit... something a bit out of the ordinary.  And you know I love quirky, even in death!



Being a critical care nurse, life and death was a part of my everyday routine but it never became routine.  I loved hearing life stories, for each of us is unique and the printed obituary is our last chance to tell our story; although, I would always prefer to hear the story when that person is alive.


There was one obit that caught my attention and I will never forget it.  It was a young fella who died, perhaps in his late 20's or early 30's.  It said... "There will be no services.  If you wished to see me, you would have seen me while I was alive."  And that was the end of the obit!  I felt the bitterness and I felt the isolation in those few sentences, and I wondered what had happened.  My first thought... had this fella died of AIDS?  Was he left to die a lonely death?  And what was the rest of his story?  I never learned the rest of his story and still to this day, his obituary haunts me.

I did not clip that obit but I suddenly began to read the obits with increased interest and then I started clipping the ones that caught my attention for whatever reason.  Some were touching and made me wish I had known the person.  Some were especially sad with death coming at what should have been the peak of life with so many dreams yet to be attained, and some were just plain funny and would make me laugh!  Honestly! 

And then there were those that were just quirky, like the guy who was laid out at the funeral home in his favorite recliner partially covered with a Dallas Cowboys blanket, wearing a Dallas Cowboys baseball cap and holding a can of beer in his hand.  Yes... that was how he wanted to be remembered.  (Ya just can't make this stuff up, and I have the obit to prove it!)

I had also clipped the obit of Jack Kilby.  Do you know who he was?  No... nor did I, until I read his obit and then wondered why I had never heard his name mentioned.  After all, he was from Dallas, worked at TI and had even won the Nobel Prize, yet few people know his name!  How could that be?  So let me tell you the rest of the story and how his death impacted my life.

I loved going to estate sales and happened on one where it said to make checks payable to "Jack Kilby Estate".  WOW!  I had clipped Jack Kilby's obit, so I said to the lady at the table, is that "The" Jack Kilby?  Oh yes... he worked at TI.  OMG!!!  I was so excited to be in his house and looking through his belongings and I wanted a momento of his life.  That is when I saw his old typewriter... you know, the really old ones with the round metal keys.  I remembered in his obit that it said he seldom used e-mail and the reason that struck me as odd was because... (are you ready for this?)... it was Jack Kilby who worked at TI who invented the micro-chip!  And because it said he seldom used e-mail,  I knew I had to have his typewriter as it represented a drastic switch in how we would communicate through electronic media.  The price was $35 and I went home with a treasure!

The typewriter sits in my living room and my little grandson would come into the house and immediately go over to the typewriter and put his fingers on the keys... those same keys that Jack Kilby used.  He knew to be gentle with it, and then I would ask... "Lucas, whose typewriter is that?" and he would answer... "That's Jack's typewriter, Lala!"  Someday he will come to appreciate who Jack was and how his invention changed our lives in a most unique way... not only lives here in Dallas but all over the world.  Suddenly we can instantly share photos and conversations and the world seems to be a much smaller place. 

Jack has changed the world we live in more than anyone else I know, and we can use that for good or for bad, but I am sure he would want to see his invention bring us together rather than tear us apart.  He was not a boastful man from what I have read and was quite low key in spite of his brilliance and perhaps that is why most people will not recognize his name... but we should!

To read Jack Kilby's fascinating obituary: http://www.dallasnews.com/obituary-headlines/20140523-jack-kilby-1923-2005----longtime-ti-engineer-s-semiconductor-paved-way-for-computer-revolution.ece

I do wish I had known him rather than known "of him"!

But as is so often the case... I have strayed off course.  This was to be about "orange face" syndrome.  Not all that long ago, the DMN started printing their obits in color in the Sunday section of the paper.  On weekdays they are in black and white.  What struck me as odd was how many of the color photos had orange faces, thus the thought that perhaps more people are dying of "orange face syndrome"!  HA!  But no, I do believe it is a case of the photo being taken in artificial tungsten light causing a shift in color to yellowish orange.  Photographers understand white balance and how the camera sees as opposed to how our eyes see.  Tungsten light will give a yellow-orange cast but can easily be corrected in the computer.  And who can we thank for this wonderful digital invention... well, Jack Kilby, of course!

So for the exorbitant price that an obit costs to have in the newspaper, why can't the newspaper color-correct these photos, as an orange face is hardly complimentary to the deceased, nor how they would want to be remembered.  In black-and-white, the difference is not noticeable.

I will continue to clip the obits that catch my attention and love the ones that truly tell something about why that person was unique.  In my collection, I have the inventor of the hula hoop, the Frisbee, the smiley face, and Mr. Tupper who invented "Tupperware".  And then there was the biker whose ashes were mixed with paint and his bike repainted.  The remainder of his ashes were strewn on the highway by his biker friends as they cruised down the highway with his wife who was riding his bike.

So many stories and so many lives lost.  When it is over, it is over.  Your last story will be your obit.  Think about how you want to live your life and how you would want to be remembered.  The time is now!  You are NOT "just like everyone else" because YOU are UNIQUE!  There will never be another you! 

Write your story and tell people who you really are and let those stories go down in history for your family to cherish!  We have much to learn from those who have gone before us.  Do it and do it now, before it is too late!  And while you are at it, why not write your own obituary?  You are so much more than... born, died, worked at, related to!  A good obituary tells so much more than just "the facts" and I know you have a story to tell!  


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