“He’s at peace…” “He’s in a better place…” “He was a good man…”
I would rather have my carcass loaded with dynamite and detonated on live television than have the traditional inanities uttered after I’m gone, especially if untrue. (Please televise it on Fox news as a sort of beyond-the-grave satire if you choose the detonation method.)
Feel free to speak ill of me after I’m gone – if you have legitimate grievances about how I behaved toward you. If you think I was a nefarious bastard, please say so. If I am guilty of an offense, the truth is not weakened by you saying so. My ears won’t shrivel from your comments. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that no one’s motives are gauged honestly while we are alive. It is foolishness to expect that once we are gone that the same craziness, gossip, and outright insult won’t follow you to the grave. Each of us has our own multitude of opinions about everything and everyone and the truth is that we all judge other people, even if we don’t voice it. Whether you like to call it “judging” it or not is a matter of semantics. Much of the disinclination to speak ill of the dead derives from the hope that we will not be complained about once we are gone. After decades of observation, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people I’ve been around, watched and listened to have very specific opinions about people who pass. Most seem to maintain the social norm of not being actively vocal during the traditional mourning cycle.
(“It’s generally considered bad form to take a bullhorn to a funeral. ” – X )
But the opinions of individuals remain, layered under a blanket of social acceptance.
Each person has a spectrum of opinions about himself or herself – we are different people to many other people. I have one relative who will undoubtedly be lauded as a great, religious woman, whereas my personal opinion about her is much more harsh. When she passes, it will not be my isolated and personal opinion that lasts; at least, probably not. The fact that our paths don’t merge frequently is even more reason to discount the negative opinions of people in your life – they matter no more in death than while you are alive. My pious relative’s reputation won’t suffer due to my minority opinion. Her opinion that I’m an ass won’t affect my reputation, either.
If I’ve not used my time here appropriately, don’t feel saddened or express remorse. I’ve had a great, long life, even if cut short by a burning meteorite falling from the sky tomorrow morning on my way to work. (Although, dying on the way to work would be a horrible legacy, much like falling over at some hideous place such as Kohl’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Each day has been of my own choosing, with each hour and minute used deliberately and in full realization of how fleeting and precious our time is. If the meteorite hits me tomorrow, don’t stop and waste your time wondering why my time was cut short. Instead, stop in amazement of how dumb we get sometimes, forgetting that time is the most precious commodity and that one person can live more in twenty years than some people live in seventy. I wasn’t promised any length of time and what I did with the time I was given was my responsibility.
I don’t mean to diminish the heart-felt words of others who can express themselves easily after someone dies. I’ve know a few people who are masters of the spoken word, those rare people who can describe a cow pasture while convincing you it would be a great idea to sleep under the noonday sun in the middle of one. Social decorum is generally desirable, but I’m not so sure that it is what is best for us as a species – not all the time.
Most people seem to need the traditional platitude patter and commentary that pervades services and gatherings after a death. In my case, I would love a joyous sharing, even if not all the content is glowing and positive. A service anchored in truth is much more desirable. We’ve all been to the funeral where the evil sister is sitting in the corner, cigarette dangling from her lip, mumbling invoked words of hatred toward the deceased. We all talk about it at the fringes of our overlapped conversation. Everyone had their own ideas about the departed and it is weird to me personally to categorically reject its presence and effect on everyone. Better to air it out and learn to respond to the awkwardness collectively.
Everything I write in this blog is a feeble attempt to badly describe what’s going on in my head. That, too, changes, much like a series of sunsets. (Each individual sunset, although strikingly different, can still be recognized as a sunset.)