Taking away information to inconvenience a few low-life thieves

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

 In an official police statement, the unknown people who burglarized a Clarkson home while the family was away at a funeral were described as “low-lifes.”

That phrase may not appropriately categorize the unfeeling callousness necessary to victimize people while they are busy burying a beloved child. What’s lower than low?

The invasion into their privacy and the theft of hard-earned possessions came only days after Dennis and Cindy Higdon were visited by police delivering the horrific news that their 20-year-old son, Christian, had died after being struck in the head with a hatchet.

Feelings of sympathy and sorrow are natural following such a shocking slaying. But somewhere in our communities, some person or group of people reacted as opportunists.

Realizing the family would be away, they broke in and walked out with jewelry, tools, rifles and shotguns. They also took away any sense of peace that home promises the grieving.

A similar burglary occurred in late March in southern Hardin County. The Skees family home was invaded on Nolin Road near Sonora during a funeral.

Based on similarities of the two burglaries, it’s been suggested by a few that the newspaper stop providing service times in obituaries. The reasoning: These notices could provide the lowest of the low with new targets.

Let’s consider that idea.

In the three months between the two funeral-time burglaries, the paper published roughly 35 obituaries per week. For the entire period, we’ll round it off to 500. That’s at least 498 funerals not associated with a corresponding theft.

Each of the 500 published death notices provided untold benefits to inform family, friends and co-workers of opportunities to express their sympathies. Visitors at visitation and mourners at funerals provide vital support and comfort by providing an outlet for grief.

Certainly, information could be distributed in a more private manner. Services could be delayed to allow for printing and mailing of invitations. There’s an unnecessary expense that doesn’t fit into our cultural expectations.

Families could share the service information privately in an informal manner. But who needs that added burden during the time of sudden sadness?

And what about folks who don’t get word? Emotions connected to death can carry sharp edges that fracture relationships. Overlooking a distant cousin, next-door neighbor or high school buddy can be misunderstood as a hurtful slight. The publication of an obituary open to all erases any risk of those occasions.

It’s been suggested that service times be omitted and funeral homes instead field questions. Frequent phone calls would be disruptive to business operations. Who wants to hear a distant phone ringing off the hook while you are trying to collect your thoughts in a funeral parlor?

It also seems ineffective in eliminating the theft question. Does anyone seriously believe that criminals do not know how to find the funeral home’s phone number?

Perhaps better solutions exist within the context of community. Just as we often ask neighbors to look after the house while we take vacation, a similar trust relationship could work. Ask someone to keep a look out during the service or request a police security check.

Years ago, I remember family funerals where neighbors occupied the house preparing a giant meal for the grieving family. That demonstration of closeness, concern and community is a stark contrast to the Higdon family experience.

Ultimately, the decision about obituary information is not one for the newspaper. It will be settled by families.

Whether a paid obituary or a basic free notice, the information published originates from survivors directly or is relayed through a funeral home or similar service. The paper does not originate the data and does not insist on a time.

Personally, I’d hate to see obituaries stripped of such a vital detail. It seems like an over reaction and another act of theft. We all suffer to inconvenience a few with evil intentions. The burglars who beset the Skees family in March and the Higdons last week would be taking something from the rest of us.

I, for one, don’t want to give up any ground to those jerks.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.