Some grave words about death

Robert Roe

“It isn’t the cough that carries you off – it’s the coffin they carry you off in.”

Are you particularly fond of funerals? I kid you not, one day my Bride and I drove past a hearse in Yellow Springs, Ohio that had a bumper sticker which read, “We put the ’fun’ in funerals.”

Songs are devoted to post life rites and ceremonies. Joe Diffie’s “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox If I Die” comes to mind. Tomes chock full of witty epitaphs adorn book store shelves. Buttermilk Hatfield’s gravestone reads “Tried Milkin’ A Cow That Was Really A Bull…Milk Can’s Empty, Grave Is Full.”

There are numerous bromides about the many facets of ceasing to be. Mark Twain said, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Myself? I will be the first to admit I avoid funerals. It’s not out of a lack of respect or love for the deceased. I just have never come to grips with the way people, myself included, deal with death during services.

When my Grandfather died a couple of months shy of his 100th birthday, his kids were scattered around the funeral home for visitation (he had a dozen of them – children, not visitations). Some reminisced, some reflected quietly, while others discussed the results of the latest UK basketball game.

It was the latter that got on my nerves. On the way home afterwards, I asked Dad about what, in my mind, were inappropriate conversations in front of a dead loved one. He explained that people process grief in different ways which, while I might not have agreed at the time, I found as I grew older to be truer than I would like to admit.

A sticking point with me is a quote I heard from someone at some time…I’d love to be able to attribute it, because it has made my perception of death so much different that it used to be:

The upshot of the maxim is that dying does not imbue one with special virtue. If one was a jerk while alive, they are still a jerk in the afterlife. Sure, “do not speak ill of the dead” is a nice sentiment, and some little white lies are hunky-dory to afford comfort to the bereaved, but we are who we are. Or were.

We might not have to worry about it for much longer, though. According to Futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson, humans will be hooked up to machines within the next three decades so “you” can attend your own funeral. Be prepared, because people do tend to gossip at funerals, and along with the fond anecdotes that come with a loved one’s passing come a few barbs at the expense of the recently deceased. Do you really want to be around for that? Crashing your own funeral? Would you deprive relatives and friends the pleasure of trashing talking you after your demise?

Says Pearson, “Until maybe, by around 2050, 99 percent of your mind is running on external IT rather than in the meat-ware in your head.” Meat. Ware. He continues. “One day, your body dies and with it your brain stops, but no big problem, because 99 percent of your mind is still fine, running happily on IT, in the cloud.”

Leaving the question of conscience, sentience and having a soul aside, if you were able to transfer your mind to a machine, would your own funeral be the first place you’d stop? If so, enjoy. If you need me, my brain will be hooked up to a server at the beach.

Robert Roe