Will Call: Let’s talk about death
It’s that spooky time of year when we dance all around the issue of death without ever really acknowledging it.
As I may have mentioned before, I find that most American holidays have traditions aimed at children and drinking or shopping opportunities aimed at adults, without much else to offer.
Halloween is actually better than average in that respect. I enjoy donning a costume to hand out candy to trick or treaters, though they’re not as common in my neighborhood as they used to be. I’m also quite fond of the pumpkins that appear along the Fryingpan in October, and have started making an annual trip up there to spot them.
Still, I wish we had a widespread observance along the line of Dia de los Muertos or All Soul’s Day. Memorial Day is probably our closest national holiday, but with the emphasis mostly on those killed in combat. I think there’s room for a more general event.
After all, death is as universal as it gets. Quite aside from our own mortality, I’m willing to bet that anyone old enough to read this has lost someone close to them. Indeed, if we live to life expectancy, we can expect to lose about half of the people we know.
We all are also the inheritors of genes and ideas and technologies left by people who are no longer. We listen to dead voices on the radio, see dead faces on television and read about death daily in the newspaper.
As a reporter, I’ve written about death in many forms. I’m haunted by the ghosts of people I never met, and a few that I did. In the process, I got a good look at what Sean Jeung and Barbara Bush mean when they say death isn’t discussed.
While we’re hanging skeletons in the yard and dressing up as zombies this weekend, we’re not really thinking about mortality. Meanwhile, most of us — particularly young folks like myself — have done absolutely nothing to prepare for our own demise.
Given the season and the right to die item on the ballot, it seems like a good time to ask ourselves some hard questions about death. What happens if you’re suddenly gone? Do you have a will? Does someone know what sort of funeral arrangements you’d like and are the means in place to make that happen? Perhaps more important, who makes the decisions if you end up somewhere between death and life?
I know that’s bleak and taboo, but it’s too darn important to ignore. Five Wishes makes a particularly straightforward form that passes legal muster in Colorado and most other states.
The other thing I plan to do is visit a cemetery, not for thrills, but to contemplate and honor those who went before.
Most of my departed relatives were either cremated or buried far from here, but there’s plenty of names I recognize up on White Hill, some I’m getting to know in Marion and a metal cross with a red handkerchief I ought to check on on Eighth Street.
It’s important to look back and remember who laid the foundations of our lives.
Even if I didn’t know anyone, I can always use the reminder that our time here is limited, and it’s up to us to make the best of it.
Will Grandbois would like to point out that Memento Mori was the original Valar Morghulis. He can be reached at 384-9105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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