The Inconvenience of Death

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.)

Remembering Mom

Sunday brings us the annual Mother’s Day celebration, likely sponsored by Hallmark, or others, interested in the marketing value.

I choose to remember my mother every day.

Sometimes consciously, recalling the things she did or said.  Sometimes sub-consciously by acting in a way consistent with what she would have wanted. I may not do this all the time, that is a product of my free will, not any lack of effort on her part. When I am not, I know it.

A mother’s influence sets us on our initial path in life.  From the extraordinary burden of bearing the development of the fetus, to the pain of delivery, one’s mother begins the process of molding a child.

My mother was a woman of extraordinary determination and moral conscience.  A child born just after the depression, living through World War II, waiting as the only man she ever loved went off to fight in the Korean War, she became a young married woman in 1954.  The first of her five children arrived two years later.

By the early 60’s she was the manager of a household of five active children, two boys and three girls, and guiding those kids by way of example (with the rare but necessary strong rebuke for poor behavior by one of us).

She experienced the joys of watching her children grow, each of us taking different, yet in her mind, equally satisfying paths.  She had much pride in her raising of the Five B’s as we were collectively referred to on birthday and Christmas cards.

She was a woman of strong faith, holding onto her beliefs despite the collapse of her marriage, the death of a child, a grandchild, and a son-in-law, remaining resilient despite her heart condition and cancer.

One of her favorite expressions was Life is not fair.

Indeed, life is not fair.  Life is neutral.  It does not make you succeed. It does not make you fail.  It gives you the opportunity to live it, however you choose.

I will recall those little things that endear her to me, to everyone for that matter.

Her penchant for taking a word and twisting it to a somewhat different, yet generally hysterical, meaning.

Forsythia bushes.

Twinkies hidden in the freezer while she was on her strict diet to deal with her heart condition.

Her tactic of saying she was not hungry, asking if she could “try” your dinner, and then eating a significant portion.

Her placing everyone else’s needs above hers.

Life is indeed not fair, having taken such a woman away too soon.

Therefore, I will celebrate her memory in my own way and in my own time.

If you are fortunate enough to have your mother in your life, enjoy your time with her while you can.  If not, then hold onto the memories.

Thanks, Mom.

I Lost a Friend Today

I lost a friend of 50 years today.

He has passed on.

I met my friend when I was 7 years old and he has always been a part of my life since.

But, in life, there comes a time when you have to let go.

So, I let go.  I will miss him greatly.

In life there are also opportunities.  So my friend is now in the hands of another young child.

My friend, my guitar, something I have had since those first guitar lessons, is now part of another life.

Some arthritis, injuries, and surgery has stolen the dexterity from my fingers.  They remember what they need to do, but can’t quite manage it.

Once you’ve played a “Paul Simon” guitar rift, the melody of Classical Gas, or any other of the hundreds of songs I’ve played on my guitar, it is hard to lose that joy.

Reality is stark sometimes.  I am comforted that my friend is in good hands,   Hands that will learn the simple joy of playing music.  Not to crowds of people, but alone, by yourself, eyes closed, the music flowing from the instrument.

Playing music is as close as one can come to real magic.

It has brought great joy to me over the years.

I lost a friend today.  But I keep the memories.

I was Just Wondering

Did you ever wonder at what point you will realize you’re dead, or if there even is such a realization.

Some people see their imminent demise.

Some are looking in the opposite direction.

Some try everything to avoid the inevitable.

Some try to hasten it.

So what does one think about?

Regrets?

Joys?

Lost opportunities?

Successes?

Failures?

Vodka?

Or some combination thereof?

I believe it likely that most people in the “civilized” countries think,

“Now?”

“Really?”

“I just (fill in the blank)”

or

“But I just got (fill in the blank again)”.

And most people in those “third-world” areas think

“Finally”

I would like to die on my birthday. Not a specific birthday, preferably one in the distant future.

And not to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It would also make the Date of Birth and Date of Death symmetrical, at least the first two designators.

I would like this for no reason other than it allows me to live 364 days a year without considering Death in my daily list concerns.

No fear of not waking up, being trampled, struck by lightning, head ballet on a windshield, infections, heart attacks, shark attacks, bears, alligators, spider bites, food poisoning, or the several billion other ways to die.

Why do I suggest there are billions of ways?

Every person who ever lived, did, and every person alive, will. It is a reasonable conclusion that, absent evidence to the contrary, regardless how long life expectancy increases, everyone yet to be born, will as well.

If everyone died at the moment I finished this sentence it would be 7,023,088,208 deaths (June 29, 2012 21:05 UTC). All would be unique in time and space (well in space at least).

While there may be general similarities, accidental or on purpose, personal or random, public or private, each will be different.

The difference, other than the mechanics of death, is some are celebrated, some are mourned, some are ignored, and a very few are remembered.

Unfortunately, we tend to remember the death of those who embodied evil, rather than those who died at the hands of the evil.

So, if all goes well. I can write another 26 days worth of blogs, pause for 24 hours on July 25, just in case, and resume for another year.

Or I could write on the 25th, assuming I wake up, and hopefully it won’t end like thi……………………………..

Requiesecat in Pace