Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Sadness of the Short Obituary

I’ve posted before about Janet Christiansen (most recently here), a former local resident who was murdered in North Carolina back in 2005.  Last summer her body was disinterred from its grave in Brown’s Mill Cemetery about half a mile from my home.  The purpose of the disinterment was to gather additional forensic evidence, since authorities have recently charged her husband with the murder.

Anyway, I wanted to keep abreast of the case and set up a Google Alert to inform me of any web activity under the search terms “Janet Christiansen.”

A couple weeks ago I got an incidental link to an obituary for one Caleb Christiansen.  Here's a short excerpt:

Caleb Christiansen returned to the hands of God on Dec. 14, 2011. He was born in Upland, Calif., on Sept. 10, 1990 to his parents Chris and Janet Christiansen and was loved and cherished by them, his family and everyone who knew him. He moved with his family to Burnet when he was 1 ½ where he lived for the remainder of his short but full life.

This is obviously not the same Janet Christiansen, it’s just a case of two people with the same name.  But I was struck by the obituary of this 21 year old, likely because “Caleb” is a name in our family. Plus the fact that while the rest of the write-up tried to be uplifting, it really was fairly short. 

And the circumstances of this young man’s death are not mentioned, so my mind naturally assumed either drugs or suicide.  Usually if a young person has a fatal disease there’s a mention of memorial contributions to a group dealing with that affliction.

I have some experience with the short obituary.  In fact, I still regularly scan the death notices in my local newspaper to see whether I know any of the young dead who would have passed due to a drug overdose. 

The tragedy and the waste are so awful and hurtful.  My heart goes out to that family out there on the west coast, and for all families who are part of the short obituary.



  1. ....I knew Caleb, I googled his name and your blog was the first to show up..

  2. Thanks for commenting. I'm very sorry for your loss. These "short obituaries," which are daily occurrences all around the country, are so, so sad for everyone.

    I particularly mourn the loss of any young person--all those hopes and dreams, just gone.