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Sleeping Beauty

June 2024
1min read

My initial reaction to “Facing Death” in the May/June issue was to slam it shut and move on. But upon coming back to it, reading John Updike’s moving and trenchant commentary, and studying the faces, I agree that it was something that needed to be faced. Mr. Updike should have included reporters among those who regularly see death face-to-face.

Our modern ability to avoid the once-common face of death came home to me early in a ten-year career as a newspaper reporter in Tennessee. I covered police beats, which included visiting scenes of accidents. I recall most vividly watching one otherwise quiet Friday afternoon as rescue workers struggled to extract the body of a woman from a car. There was no immediately visible trauma; the woman’s face looked slack, as though she were heavily asleep.

This single-car accident occurred on wet streets in front of a day-care center. The juxtaposition of new life and and new death drove home, as nothing ever had or has since, the ultimate fragility of life. The accident was only minutes old; where had life gone so quickly? The Sleeping Beauty photos invite us to ponder this question.

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