I don’t know if it’s the fact that my first novel was death related or if everything seems to revolve around death these days, but I have been thinking about this topic lately. Not really of my own mortality, though I’ve lived through enough death to have a morbid acceptance that my number could easily be up at any moment. I’m oddly okay with this very fact and choose to live my life so that my children learn at least one thing of value each day. My legacy will be making sure that I have given my children the confidence to succeed in life as useful members of society and enough empathy to use that success to make a meaningful difference in this world.
That is all for them though. I don’t believe that after I die that I would be able to look down on them with pride. I try to pretend I believe it because it makes other people feel better, but I have a very difficult time with it. I don’t believe that there’s an afterlife. Maybe I’m a pessimist, but I just think that you die and decompose and that’s that. I toyed around with the idea of reincarnation, but I can’t get behind that either.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to talk to someone who has passed, just to see what happens. This doesn’t even mean I don’t bow down in front of the casket and say a prayer like I had been taught when I was younger. I go through the Catholic Masses after like I am supposed to. This doesn’t mean when I was pregnant, I didn’t visit my Grandfather’s grave for luck or visit the chapel to say a prayer when my baby was in surgery. I do exactly what I’m supposed to at these very ritualized events in our life. But going through motions and believing are two very different things.
Funerals and wakes aren’t for the deceased, they are for the living. These rituals are for the loved ones to mourn and receive closure while their friends and acquaintances show that they are decent human beings capable of sympathy. We celebrate this by killing flowers for an obscene amount of money and filling the funeral home so it smells a little less like death and inevitability. We speak nice of the deceased, even if they had no redeemable qualities.
When I die, I want someone to talk about me and all the good, horrible or questionable things that I have ever done. I don’t want to suddenly be known as a saint out of a guise of respecting my passing because lying about me would be disrespectful to my memory, not that it would matter because I wouldn’t know. I would like to be proven wrong about this, as I have an open enough mind to consider it. But I would need to see my own proof. This doesn’t mean I look down upon those who do believe their departed loved ones look down on them, quite the opposite. I have an admiration to them because they have that hope alive within themselves to see people as souls temporarily occupying a body rather than just a composition of matter with an expiration date. Whatever you believe, there are two things for sure: we need to make every second on this place worth something and live our lives as decent people while we’re here.