It probably is a safe bet that one of these days you will “pass on,” “pass away,” “pass over,” or simply die. And it’s also probably a safe bet that as it stands now, you might be hoping that someone will remember you after you’re gone, or at least care that you lived… and/or died.
Would it really shock anyone to know that there are people who secretly — or even openly — root for someone to die, mainly to get at their inheritance? Of course, while licking their chops over the money that they’ll be able to spend once they get it in their hot little hands, they might also have other reasons for wishing away their well-off relative way before it’s time: Perhaps taking care of Mother was just too big a chore. Maybe taking care of Father was cutting too deeply into their inheritance. And it’s always possible, of course, that some of those lingering relatives who don’t have the common courtesy of knowing when to depart may simply be annoying. But when you’re old and sick and don’t even know for sure if you’ll be cared for, or how, or by whom, it might not make you the most pleasant auntie or uncle or mom or dad to be around.
One would think that at the very least a relative on this side of that situation could pretend to care. As in, “I’ll miss you when you’re gone,” or “Is there anything I can do for you?” Imagine (if you possibly can) having your only child ignore you in your last days, except to treat you with that “hurry up and die already” attitude. Imagine not even being allowed to have your friends over to cheer you up and cheer you on because it’s an inconvenience and it might extend your life somewhat, and we can’t have that! And as a final blow to your dignity, imagine that when you finally do slip off into that final resting place in the great beyond, all your friends and relatives are notified in this fashion:
To All: Mom passed away about 2 a.m. this morning at age 97. No services.
That’s right. No personal note or call to a single relative. No personal note or call to a single friend. No personal note of any sort saying something kind or comforting to hear about the deceased, or offering those who will feel the loss a way to say their final goodbyes. The relative in this particular real-life example just noted her mother’s passing like she might add a “P.S.” at the end of a note to her hairdresser or grocer. She might just as nonchalantly have added the words that others have already seen written on her heart: “She passed away, finally; and good riddance — after all, she was old enough and had nothing to live for anyway; and I sure don’t want to bother with any services, which will just take up my time and cost money I don’t want to spend. So that’s that.
We probably know there are cultures that celebrate the passing away of one of their own. They understand the nature of death as being a necessary escape from the confines of the material body to allow the person to move on to something much better. It’s like a graduation of sorts. They gather round and pretty much cheer the person on toward a happier state of affairs. But as much as they might celebrate the “passing over,” or “passing away,” they do not wish or desire the person to leave as soon as possible. They do not “push” the person toward that edge of departure. And they do not celebrate the fact that they are no longer here. They celebrate that they are now going there. That is a big difference.
Considering the impermanent nature of life itself and the fact that we’re all in this together by ourselves, think about how you might feel should you find yourself faced with a more or less short amount of time left — perhaps because of an advanced age, or a severe illness, or some other health or life challenge — and those around you are giving you what feels like “the bum’s rush.” Think of how you would feel sensing that; or even worse, knowing that, and still have to look into the faces and eyes of those so wishing you away.
We depart this earth but once, and no matter how many friends we’ve had along the way, death is still a solo endeavor. The friends of our youth, even if fresh and alive in memory, are likely not at our bedside. The friends of our adult life, over our long and winding journey, are also probably not at our side, at least not day and night, and cannot always be there to cheer us up or on as we prepare for that final journey. But those who are our so-called loved ones, our family members in one way or another, are usually “stuck” with us by default — if we are even lucky enough to have any family members around to care for us and make our final days a little easier and more pleasant with a kind word from their loving heart.
Well, folks, not every relative has a kind word for the dearly departing, or even a loving heart! Not everyone who has the opportunity to be that person at the bedside, so to speak, makes the event of leaving this life easier, softer, or more gentle for the one passing on. Yet it is 100 percent free to be kind. It is 100 percent free to be gentle. It is 100 percent free to make the event more of what you would want your own event to be like, when it is your turn.
In the end, it is really far more about the ongoingness of how we have treated others and how they have treated us; yet if we are ever able to get that lesson — if we even get it at the so-called deathbed of our own mother — better late than never.
Passing away ought to have some significance.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her firstname.lastname@example.org.