There are only two things in life that are certain, death and taxes. I’ve tried defining other certainties, aside from bodily functions, and this seems to be fairly accurate. Between all the baby announcements, weddings and birthdays, a few untimely and sudden deaths have sneaked their way into my life. After the dust settled and everyone was properly buried or remembered, I had time to think about the implications of it all. Why do we live to work? Why can’t people muster the courage to follow their true desires and develop their talents? Is all of it worth it?
Here’s what triggered my introspective journey: When someone dies, aside from the circumstances of their death, their passing requires that we define them. This exercise is harder than it looks because people mean different things to those that love and cherish them. Every day they had thousands of interactions that resulted in infinite versions of themselves. For many, they learn about the other dimensions of the deceased’s personality during the wake as people exchange anecdotes about the fallen comrade. The issue is that we are taught to not speak ill of the dead so many of their personal struggles will be kept quiet for the sake of propriety. In these unspoken words we can be letting their legacy slip us by. That is a shame because it should be up to the living to continue the hard work and good deeds of the dead.
That’s were I get hung up when going through my relationship inventory. Some of the memories I may have of the person may not be pleasing or joyful. After bailing out many people from emotional, financial and legal turmoil, I have seen how resilient people can become. I’ve seen them at their worst and at their best. I wish I could openly acknowledge that their struggle was not only real but not insurmountable; that they are the true heroes of the story. Not their parents, siblings, role models or heroes. They gor themselves through life as best as they could and that in itself deserves recognition.
The old adage sais “Perception is reality” and with so many perceived versions of ourselves, I can’t blame people for not knowing how to grieve and say goodbye in the most effective way. When it is all said and done, the departed are not here to judge their black parade and we will never be able to consolidate the many facets of a person into one cohesive picture of who they really were. We have to be content with knowing we can be everything to everyone and still not be known. No matter how hard you try others will project onto you and your deeds their own agendas and biases. This is the reason why it is so hard to define and appreciate others. You only see in them what you want to see; that to which you can relate to.
Whenever my time comes, I hope my family celebrates my life and the many faces of my personality. I hope they appreciate the good stories but also ask for the heart and gut wrenching ones. I want them to know who I was, what I accomplished and how much I contributed to make the world a better place in spite of however they felt about me. Since I cannot be there to plan, moderate and learn from my own demise, I sincerely expect that those left behind learn something from me long after I am gone. If not, at the very least I hope they knew me well enough to share my story and miss me for the right reasons.