Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Condolences and epitaphs

{Doug Savage}
I recently took a new job that allows me the opportunity to "hear" what people say about those who have died and the things they say to the bereaved.  For the most part, what is said is overwhelmingly positive - many superlatives, sweet remembrances, funny stories, abbreviated (but sometimes extensive) genealogies to explain kinship to deceased/bereaved.  Occasionally, and usually jarringly, I come across the odd spectacularly negative comment - "she was a horrible person", "Glad he's dead - what a jerk." or "oh well!".  While completing household chores, trying to fall asleep or watching a movie, an unbidden but insistent thought pops into my head... "what would I want people to say about me after I die?" (will I even know or care about what is said once I'm dead?).  A (big) part of me would like people to say wonderful things about how kind, selfless and funny I was. I certainly wouldn't want to be remembered for the me of my weaker/weakest moments when my fatigue, frustration, impatience, less than brilliant utterances and selfishness in thought or deed paint me with an ugly brush.  What would I want my loved ones to hear about me and my new state? Would it be helpful to them to hear that I am in heaven, that I am now an angel, that I am pain-free and will no longer experience unhappiness?  Death is a funny business -  a mysterious certainty for all.  My brain chugs along trying to make sense of it all and makes no headway.  I guess I just hope that, when I go, people who care enough to comment on it have had the good fortune to have parents somewhere in their pasts who taught them "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all".