Obits in The Medium? Why not?

Michael Althouse
4 min readJan 6, 2024

To say that The Medium has lost its luster, for me, is something of an understatement. And, no longer new in any real sense, its novelty is, also, long gone. There are a number of reasons for this and, to be fair, it appears that the powers that be have attempted to reel in some of the saccharin; however, so long as there is a demand for it, the production of endless “listicles” and other pablum will continue. I stopped writing for and, to a large extent, reading The Medium because it has become too much work to extract the nuggets from the overburden. But I do still support the effort and the principle behind it and, while not as “gladly” as I once did, I still pay my $50 (or whatever it is) annually, putting my money where my virtual mouth is.

But what if The Medium did have more “real life” stuff? The topic in headline that might have drawn you in for this piece, obituaries, is that ubiquitous section that appears towards the end of every traditional newspaper. They used to be written by real (and by real, I mean trained in the profession) journalists, but, today, while usually written by loved ones and published (for a fee), still appear, acknowledging a whole life lived. In today’s online world, others can add to these in the form of comments, thus adding a degree of richness with just a few keystrokes at one’s computer or smartphone — commemoration that was previously limited to much more cumbersome (although perhaps more meaningful) means of expression.

Even as certain forms of “professional journalism,” like the obituary, have faded, the obits written by loved ones are still uniquely “real.” Some are written by those who can write very well, others are written by those who cannot, but the authenticity of what the deceased meant to whomever wrote the obit usually comes through — often an element that might be lost on someone who did not know the deceased. While it is true that a good journalist will gather information sufficient to convey those feelings, with so many small (to say nothing of medium and large) newspapers now gone, along with the journalists they employed, we are left with the authenticity of the family written, paid for placement, obituary. I contend it might be, perhaps, the most “real” writing that appears in any news publication.

Although I no longer write for any news publications (save, occasionally, The Medium), I have had reason to write obituaries or other commemorative pieces from time to time. Death is part of life and as I grow older, there have been those close to me who have passed — some have left a void that words can help to fill. On December 26th, 2023, less than two weeks ago, my younger brother left such a void. At just 59 years old, he passed suddenly, unexpectedly, but not entirely unexpectedly. The following is the obit I wrote for him. It is real.

David Craig Althouse was born on November 17, 1964, at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City and passed quietly in his sleep at Sonora Community Hospital on December 26, 2023. He grew up in Los Altos, CA and spent the final 20+ years of his life living unencumbered by the trappings of the modern world on the shores of Lake Tulloch in Copperopolis, CA.

At just 59 years old, David lived a storied life. While still just 17 years old, he secured a job on the Mississippi River working the river barges up and down the river. Although he suffered an injury that resulted in the amputation of his left leg below the knee, it did not slow him down. He was most at home near a body of water, on a boat and, often, with a fishing pole in his hand.

His passion for critters was also well known. While he had many dogs over his life, he also cared for various other exotic animals and it was not uncommon to see him with a python draped around his neck, or, when he was a boy, a blue belly or alligator lizard he found in the neighborhood or at Adobe Creek, tucked away in his pocket.

David, in a bygone time, would have been a true frontiersman, a trailblazer, an explorer, a discoverer and an inventor. He would make use of anything, repurpose everything; nothing, and, perhaps most importantly, no one was worthless to him. For those he loved and cared for, his loyalty was unmatched, and he was generous to a fault.

He loved the Grateful Dead, Mardi Gras and, in addition to his time working on the Mississippi River, spent much of his time in Louisiana and Mississippi on the Gulf Coast — fishing, crabbing, and exploring.

David is survived by a large loving family, including his parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, neighbors, many pets over the years, and most recently by his beloved rescue dog, Benji.

A celebration of life will be held in the Garden House at Shoup Park in Los Altos on January 27, 2024 at 4:30 p.m. — all are welcome. In lieu of flowers, David would appreciate that donations at a local animal rescue of your choice are made in his honor.

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Michael Althouse

Lecturer/professor of communication studies at California State University, Sacramento. www.michaelalthouse.com