We have kind of a dumb way of dealing with death, as a country, as a species. You’re supposed to be sad and to walk on eggshells and to whitewash someone’s history. You go to a wake, and then a funeral and maybe some sort of gathering after, and there’s this veneer of fakeness over the whole thing.
My Uncle Mike lost his battle against the stroke that felled him last week, and I think I can feel multiple things about his passing. He was the sort of person who you never want to see exit in such an anti-climatic way, let alone at all. He was simply…nice. And not in that ‘can’t think of anything else to say’ sort of way, but in a way that defined him and made him easy to relate to and be related to and even easier to be around. The sort where your prevailing thought is “man…why did that guy have to die?’ He also didn’t live the healthiest lifestyle, which provides an unfortunate partial answer to the question. Oh, and he was a Bills fan. That’ll get you.
But what really bothers me in death is the time we waste to sadness and mourning and protocol. We’re going to spend hours upon hours preparing the final arrangements of this man, who we admit died at too young an age of 58. We’re going to call life valuable and precious and fragile, and then we’re going to spend another couple hours standing around. Holy Christ, are we even listening to ourselves? Let’s go do stuff. We sit here lamenting on all the things Uncle Mike will miss or be unable to do and my prevailing thought is that those activities sound a whole lot like missing and not doing things.
Everyone deals differently I guess. Especially me.
I don’t have a lot of memories with my Uncle Mike, and I don’t have a lot of pictures of him, but none of that really matters. Remembering someone is highly overrated. Slapping a picture of him on my wall, while comforting, and perhaps even a nice gesture, doesn’t honor this man that is no longer with us.
Everyone we meet, and especially those we spend time around like family, leaves an indelible mark on us. No matter what happens from here on out, no matter how far gone he gets as time passes, that mark of Uncle Mike is going to remain on all of us. His influences, great or small, are going to be reflected in the actions of everyone he encountered. His spirit and his thoughts and deeds and words are pervasive and they will never leave us. He was, is, and will always be a part of us. I don’t think we honor Uncle Mike with wakes or funerals or black clothes, or flowers.
I think we honor him by living life, in all its simplicity and all its complexity.