Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Dead Don't Care

The following excerpt comes from The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade, a National Book Award Finalist written by Thomas Lynch, W.W. Norton and Company, 1997. Mr. Lynch is a published poet and essayist, who lives and works in Milford, Michigan, where he is the funeral director.

    Being a dead saint is not more worthwhile than being a dead philodendron or a dead angelfish. Living is the rub, and always has been. Living saints still feel the flames and stigmata of this vale of tears, the ache of chastity and the pangs of conscience. Once dead, they let their relics do the legwork, because, as I was trying to tell this priest, the dead don't care.
    Only the living care.
    And I am sorry to be repeating myself, but this is the central fact of my business--that there is nothing, once you are dead, that can be done to you or for you or with you or about you that will do you any good or any harm; that any damage or decency we do accrues to the living, to whom your death happens, if it really happens to anyone. The living have to live with it. You don't. Theirs is the grief or gladness your death brings. Theirs is the loss or gain of it. Theirs is the pain and the pleasure of memory. Theirs is the invoice for services rendered and theirs is the check in the mail for its payment.
    Give it a rest is the think I say.
    Once you are dead, put your feet up, call it a day, and let the husband or the missus or the kids or a sibling decide whether you are to be buries or burned or blown out of a cannon or left to dry out in a ditch somewhere. It's not your day to watch it, because the done don't care.
    Which is not to say that the dead do not matter.
    They do. They do. Of course they do.

I recommend you find this book on Amazon or in your local library and read it.