Memento Mori

I'm pretty sure there are people looking forward to my funeral. Not because they want me dead, but because they expect a good turnout and an interesting assembly. Affiliative, occasionally ingratiating, I've managed more than my fair share of bonding, and the bonds take in people who don't know each other but could.

The reason I mention this is that I attended a couple of memorial gatherings for some friends of mine, both a few years older than me and popular, and the events were reunion-like and a bit joyful for the fellowship. It boosted the families, and it enlivened the other survivors. many already beyond their sell-by date.

A time comes around age 70 when you start to worry that you're eating some useful person's food and consuming his toilet paper. My age group, the dead and pre-dead, is huge and gets bigger every year, as post-war babies reach 75. People my age who read the obituaries every day see friends and acquaintances all the time. There's a consciousness of mortality in the air we're so fortuitously allowed to breathe, and the elders see that the mortality is going to be impressive and could contribute to a popular mood swing. The survivors of the next decade or so are going to have to get used to grieving or find some other gainful adaptation.

My assumption has always been that a day would arrive when the survivors, fully conscious of the ruin left for them by the dead, would repudiate us all, maybe with annual or monthly observances of Grave Defilement Day, when stinking memorials of various kinds would be left to decorate the markers. Forget about grief.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Think back to the death of, say, Robin Williams. On that day, a lot of people of every conceivable description shared a feeling of sad appreciation for moments when he made them laugh. A reflection like that is always beneficial for the survivor, and when masses reflect, it's potentially unifying. We may not be aware of it, but we exploit these occasions for mass reflection when we turn up for events like the ones I attended. As you leave, you can hardly help thanking the dead guy.

The media are always telling us how divided, atomized, at odds, and in constant conflict we are as a people. Not so much when we share feelings over a death. And so I've revised my prediction. The survivors of the next decade will adapt to the death epidemic rationally and dispense with grief, not by grave defilement, but by marking the day as an occasion for fellowship and bonding, with undeserved gratitude to the dead for bringing everybody together. None of my predictions ever comes to pass, but this one may already be in progress.