Last week while meandering London’s markets my friend Ejim said to a vendor, “have a nice life!” after striking a deal for some insignificant trinket. At first it felt as though his comment was passive aggressive, but after a few minutes spent with the words echoing through my head I realized it wasn’t. It was honest.
There is an infinitely small chance that we will ever encounter that person again. And even if we did, it is almost just as likely that we wouldn’t remember him. So whether that vendor died tomorrow or eighty years from now, our memory of who he was – and the significance of that memory – will remain the same. Simply said, he’s dead to us.
It is an interesting exercise to think of death as relative to ones-self. Does a person die when their heart stops beating? Or is it after that last encounter in which you’ll ever see them? Personally, I believe in the later.
Both scenarios produce the exact same outcome, a memory. A memory of who the person was, what they stood for, or an experience that you shared together – and for the rest of your own life, that’s is all you will have left of them.
I’ve never understood why people fear death – maybe it’s because I’ve never been religious, but that’s another topic. Of course I feared dying, but only in a way no different than I fear any type of physical or emotional pain. Which influences me to feel as though dying is no different than peeling off a band-aid – because it should only hurt for a second, and then it’s over.
People mistake their fear of loosing something for the fear death…I believe. And for a very simple reason – because the only thing about death that troubles us is the idea that we physically cannot have something anymore.
A series of memories is all a relationship is. And a memory can be made that includes a person whether or not they are physically there. I know that this may sound like I’m some spiritual looney…but hopefully the following may offer some credibility.
Three or four years ago I logged onto AOL and the top news story was Jimi Hendrix Releases New Album. “What?” I thought to myself – and immediately read the article.
It turns out that before Hendrix died he had recorded an album that ended up having to be released several decades after he passed away due to copyright laws. And as a result, many years after every one had thought he was no more he was very much brought back to life for the world and his fans.
How is this like him being brought back to life? Because all he ever was to most of the world was a captivating sound coming through a speaker. And besides that he existed no differently to how we imagine a god – someone so out of reach but so real at the same time
But, what about those people we do know and interact with on a personal and daily basis? And I’ll be very honest; it is difficult when they die. I remember back when my Grandpa died feeling robbed. But over the years since then something I never imagined happening did. I kept learning from him.
The lessons he taught me manifested with my comings of age and helped shape me – as though he was their mentoring me the whole time. And time after time again he comes up in both thought and conversation, influencing me to act and behave in a certain manner – as though he was there.
In no way would I argue that it’s foolish to worry about death. It is a very human thing to do. However, worry more about making the most and best memories you can with those you love. Because those will last and be develop whether or not you ever are physically with them again.