As a writer, I often cannot control the voices in my head. They run Helter-Skelter from one thought to another. When one strives to write, you often find yourself more a spectator or passenger. Rare to have any control at all.
It was thus that, amid writing a piece for a weekly blog called the Heretic and the Holy Man, I started thinking about how inconvenient most deaths are.
It is not often that a death occurs without interrupting someone’s plans, altering the course of one or more days, or disrupting the general pattern of living. This is never inconvenient for the deceased. His part is over. The inconvenience, no matter how unintentional, is with those left behind. My parents taught me to be considerate of others, I thought it appropriate that I leave a message for those who survive me.
I do not want to cause any inconvenience.
Now, do not read anything into this. I have not received any dire medical news, I am not clinically depressed, I have no omens of my death, I just do not want to inconvenience anyone once I do leave this mortal coil.
I have a goal for a long life. I plan to be in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest living human. If successful, I will achieve this goal sometime in the year 2079. The current record is a French woman who lived to be 122 years and 194 days.
Even that may not be long enough to read all the books on my Kindle or work on the thousands of ideas I have for stories to write.
I have often said I want to die on my birthday, for no particular reason other than symmetry. If I achieve both goals my memorial will read;
Born July 25, 1956
Died July 25, 2079
It’s good to have a goal, but I also know reality may intrude. In the event I don’t beat the odds, no matter how unlikely, I’d like to leave some rules behind for family and friends after my death.
1. If you are on a Caribbean beach when you hear the news, DO NOT LEAVE. There is no need to rush home. I am already dead. (A more important point is, if you are on a Caribbean Beach WHY are you getting messages?) Order another drink, lie in the sun, and enjoy life.
2. If you are at work when the news arrives. Notify a co-worker that you have to leave immediately. Tears would be helpful in convincing them of the urgency. Then, fly to a Caribbean Beach and refer to #1.
3. If you are at home and the news arrives, there is no need to change whatever plans you might have. Since the instigating incident (Mortem meam, my death for those of you who didn’t benefit from five years of Latin) is a fait accompli, there is nothing you can do about it. Go out to dinner, meet with your remaining living friends, go on with life.
Dying is an inconvenient aspect of life. It rarely occurs with any consideration for the living. Sometimes death poses a threat to others. If it occurs, say, while you are driving a car or school bus (just picture the look on all those little faces as the bus careens along without a living operator.)
It would seem if intelligent design was responsible for our existence, there is a design flaw.
Death should always occur during sleep, preferably while sleeping alone or when your sleeping companion is already awake (but hasn’t started breakfast, no need to waste food.)
Death comes with the timing of an uncontrollable fart in polite company. It sneaks up on you, rudely announces its presence, and then you begin to stink.
Our world of instant communication complicates the problem. Between Tweets and Facebook and Instagram the last breath has barely escaped and notices are flying around the world. It was better when it took years for the news to spread, less intrusive to life.
Here’s another of those random thoughts. Someone needs to come up with an icon for a Facebook status of croaked. But I digress. (The voices just won’t stop.)
So as a favor to the (at the moment) still living me, take this request to heart. To those of you whom, in some small measure, I have made your life more enjoyable, continue to enjoy that life. Altering plans due to an inevitable element of existence makes little sense. Mourn if you must, but do it for the briefest of moments.
There’s no time to waste. Everyone’s death is imminent in a relative sort of way.
Embrace the living, walk in the rain, lay on a Caribbean beach absorbing the warm sun. The most touching thing you can do to remember those who are no longer here to share life is embracing your own.
In mortem, et finem. In vitae, spem. (You’re still alive. Look it up.)