Forgive me the break from usual gaming and business-y posts. It’s been a bad week for beloved celebrities, and I’ve seen a lot of people expressing their grief in a variety of ways. A conversation I had yesterday sparked this post, a friend suggested I write what I told him on my blog, so here we are.
I have had perhaps the gentlest introduction to death anyone could ask for. My parents are both doctors, and in the medical field death is an inevitability. A lot of people dislike or distrust doctors for their clinical detachment– it feels, to them, like the doctors don’t care. Growing up with two of them, I can say the opposite is true, at least for my parents. The detachment is what keeps someone sane when they literally hold people’s lives in their hands every single day, when they can get a phone call at 3AM and have to jump out of bed and rush to the hospital, no time for coffee, barely time to get dressed, in order to see to a patient whose treatment couldn’t wait until sunrise… and then work a full day with the patients whose treatments COULD wait.
I remember dinner conversations where, growing up, I thought the casual mention of a patient dying was shocking– how could something so serious get brought up so casually? In hindsight, I realize that was my parents’ way of remembering each patient who died. You’ll note I don’t use euphemisms like “passed away” or “left us”– my parents avoided using them, possibly in order to honestly internalize the weight, possibly because neither of them are much for sugar-coating reality, so I’ve never picked up the habit.
In a similar vein, I was never told the lie, growing up, that my parents would be around “forever” to take care of me. They would always say “as long as I can”, and it was just as comforting to me as the lie would have been. I remember correcting a babysitter at one point, who told me that my parents would be around “forever”, and I told her they wouldn’t, because people don’t live forever. I think she, in her twenties at the time, was somewhat put off by this coming from a seven- or eight-year-old’s mouth.
I don’t really talk about my views on death very often, because it tends to put people off. I feel like life is inherently limited, and that accepting death is a very personal thing. I am less sad about the end of a long life well lived than I am about a life cut short too early, potential unrealized. I understand why we have funerals, but I’ve always thought it a pity that they’re such somber affairs, rather than individually tailored to the person, the way we do with weddings. The end of a life well lived should, I feel, be a raucous celebration akin to the last dance at a ball, a final party to mark the end of a good run. This bothers some people, who feel like that’s inadequately respectful. I dunno, I kind of think I’d want the last big gathering of my friends and family to be an outing that I’d actually want to attend, were I still around.
People don’t live forever. I feel like this is one of the hardest realities to come to terms with, and I consider myself lucky that I had it instilled in me early. I remember a funeral, once, and my parents’ stoic composure while everyone else in the room sobbed and wailed. I remember thinking they looked wistful, rather than sad, and later I asked why. My mom put it well: “I hope that when I die, I will have made that many people happy enough to come see me off.”
I do too.