The Stories that Feed My Soul

These are thumbnails of pages I recently coordinated/edited for MLive. (Photo: Rachel E. Watson)

I get to read for a living at my job. I'm an editor who does a lot of little things that boil down to one basic responsibility: Aim to leave every story better than you found it.

This fits the meticulous, detail-oriented side of my personality perfectly.

But there's another itch that gets scratched all day long: I get to learn something new about a wide range of topics every day. From the wild and weird to the cool and quirky to the fascinating and moving, my day is one discovery after another.

Wild and weird

Today, for instance, I learned that Paradise Funeral Chapel in Saginaw recently added a drive-thru viewing window for funeral visitations. People drive up to the window, and a motion sensor causes the curtains to draw back for 3 minutes to reveal the casket containing their dear, departed loved one. Visitors then may sign the guest book and send it inside via a Pneumatic tube like the ones used at banks. Or, they can write a check to the memorial fund and drop it into a metal deposit box mounted under the window.

My co-workers and I were all horrified and morbidly amused by this idea. I wondered aloud whether there's a fast-casual ambience to match the concept.

We all agreed it's a bizarre idea. Funerals are for mourning the deceased. They also exist to bring comfort to the family and friends, by the family and friends. You can't do that properly while idling in your car 10 paces outside where the family is gathered.

Cool and quirky

MLive hosts an always enjoyable, frequently thought-provoking guest column called Ethics & Religion Talk that's coordinated by a local rabbi. He forwards readers' questions to a multi-faith panel of experts, who aim to answer each question in about 200 words or less, using evidence from their faith traditions and doctrines to back their answers.

 This week, a reader mailed an anonymous question in an envelope with no return address. And can you blame him? His question was, Is it OK to go to nudist beaches?

The topic, though silly on the surface, gets answered in thoughtful, yet divergent ways by each respective member of the panel. No one treats the reader's question as anything less than a serious one. I'm thankful the rabbi has created a safe space for questions about the nagging things that keep (some of us) up at night.

Fascinating and moving

I always feel lucky when I get to read a story that fully engages my heart and mind. I coordinate the Health section for The Grand Rapids Press print edition, and the content I come across in my "travels" is full of surprises.

I particularly love Sue Schroder's Living with Cancer column. Sue is a retired Press editor who now freelances. About five years ago, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In the years since, she has written weekly from the heart about the travails of cancer. She shares her own quip-laced, whip-smart, funny insights and generously tells the stories of others walking through Cancer Land.

Recently, she featured an oncologist who blogs in his spare time about his discoveries, triumphs and failures while practicing medicine.

The story of "Doctor Blogger," as Sue calls him, taught me the best way to bring humanity into your work is to show yourself human. He doesn't mince words about himself, and his patients find this incredibly compelling and relatable. What if every doctor tried this? What kind of impact would that make on the health care field?

A second moving story I remember reading in the Health section was about couples who find true love while in assisted living facilities. One of our monthly community contributors, JoAnn Abraham, from Porter Hills Retirement Community, wrote the story. I can't share the full story here because it's not available online, but I can tell you about it.

The headline was "It's never too late for love," and the couple pictured were Bob and Lois Hardesty, 95 and 91, who met while at Porter Hills and have now been married 13 years.

Here's an excerpt:
Bob Hardesty, a resident of Porter Hills, was the leader of Magic Carpet, a volunteer service to drive people to their doctor appointments. He had been a widower for two years when Lois, also a widow of two years, showed up to be a driver.
“I knew I was interested right away,” Lois said.

How cool is that? Finding a new flame when your clock is winding down.

This is what keeps me coming back

I never get tired of hearing the types of stories mentioned above. I feel privileged to work in a place that facilitates the thing that nourishes our souls: information, memories, news, heartfelt stories.

Thanks for reading!

Your turn. I love to hear from readers. I welcome your comments on any of the stories above, and I specifically wish to hear your wild and weird, cool and quirky, fascinating and moving tales. Leave a comment below or over on my Facebook Community page

Note: The views expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the perspective of MLive.

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