People are always saying things like 'Watch what you say to people 'cause it might be the last thing you say to them.' There are bumper stickers too - 'Tell the people you love that you love them 'cause they may not be around forever' and on and on. I know this is supposed to improve relationships but it's only made me paranoid - I can't express disapproval, discipline my daughter or even yell at customer service guys because I'm constantly expecting the people around me to drop like flies. And what if the last thing I said to them was 'Put me on to your manager, I'm done talking to you?'
I was thinking about this - this need we have to send people away with a good word - and I have to say, it makes no sense. For starters, people are not always dying unexpectedly - especially the annoying ones. Secondly, why are we so spooky about last words anyway? Like the sum total of what we share with our loved ones is only as special as what we last say to them - like the dead are busy spending the afterlife obsessing about what we lastsaid to them. May I suggest that this is just absurd and puts a lot of pressure on the living?
I mean, if I have to keep death in mind all the time, I would have to compromise on honesty in relationships. Would I really ask you to 'pick up the damn socks yourself' if I knew you'd be gone in the next few hours? But that's the thing! Most of the time, you are back in the next few hours and flinging the same dirty socks in the same place and if I don't tell you that it irritates me soon enough, it would build into resentment and start eating away at our relationship.
OR I would smile and put up with all your crap because I'm so psyched that you might die anytime and we'd never have a chance at a real relationship because I'm always too busy saying nice things to you.
The same goes for funeral and memorial services. I mean, I'm not against honouring the dead with heartfelt words. But who is this for, really? I tend to believe that the closer you are with someone, the lesser you have to say about them. I string words together for a living and I honestly don't think words can possibly do justice to the depth of human emotions - however well told. But what makes me roll my eyes are those who feel a compulsive need to 'say something nice' about the dead at these services despite the fact that they have little or no history with them. I even know of people who've made no secret of how much they've disliked someone but promptly stood up at the funeral to deliver the feel-good speech.
This makes me worry about my own funeral. Who would be there? What would they say? Would there be a lot of fake speeches and a theatrical display of grief? Would people congregate in large numbers to sing Nearer My God To Thee while mentally calculating how long it will be before they can get home for lunch?
If they knew me well enough, they would say nothing. And they wouldn't have to beat themselves up over the fact that the last thing they said to me was 'Your book kind of sucked.'
As the very awesome Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once put it - When I'm lying in the coffin, I don't want anyone lying from the pulpit.
Judy is a compulsive theorist and dreamy single-mum. She believes in serendipity, The Butterfly Effect and is pop-culture-crap intolerant. She is also the best-selling author of Two Fates - The Story of My Divorce