punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Uncle Wayne and my general thoughts on death

Of course, the big news of our household is currently Uncle Wayne’s passing. This is kind of sad because the former matriarch of the family, aka “Nanny,” had four kids. One died in the 60s in a motorcycle accident. One died a few years ago due to old age, and of course mom died in 1998 due to hospital negligence. Wayne was the last of Nanny’s kids, and a whole generation is now laid to rest in a West Virginia cemetery.

There’s also a LOT of complicated family stuff going on, which I didn’t ask permission to write about, so I won’t, but I will say that the only time family ever gets together since Nanny died is for funerals. Before she died, she was the center of the family. You either liked her or thought she was the devil, but she liked me a lot, and maybe I’ll never know why except I hugged her goodbye after first meeting her, which apparently impressed her.

I don’t have a big family that close. I mean, I have all my cousins in Sweden, and uncle in San Diego, and two cousins by him in California, but we could pass each other on the street and not recognize one another. I know my cousin Sven, who is my grandmother’s great nephew, more than I know my uncle, and even seen him more. There’s my dad, of course, in San Diego, looking over Mission Bay from a 1.2 million dollar condo balcony. But his ways are as foreign to me as Dick Cheney.

Times like this, and there has been far too many times like this in the last ten years, when I think about the practical side of death. Like, how will I know when my father dies? I assume no one will tell me, and his wife will handle it all, inherit his money, remarry and that will be the end of that. All my grandparents are gone, only got one uncle.

It’s kind of odd; you never really understand mortality until you understand that people go on without you. It’s one of the reasons I try to convince people not to commit suicide because... it won’t really mean anything after a year or two. My mom killed herself, we went on. Tara Lily killed herself, and she’s been reduced to an anecdote that she was my math partner that jumped off the balcony because she wrecked her parent’s car. And we went on. All your friends and family, sad to say, even if they love you very much... will go on without you, so don’t leave them with something uncomfortable like a suicide. leave them something with memory, like you died saving somebody or had a massive heart attack while skydiving. In the same vein, just think, you may never know your great grand kids. You may, but I can almost bet that they won’t know you except as a photo, or if you managed to live that long, some shriveled up old person who lived back in the 20th century. And while many of you could probably tell stories about the ggp’s... you didn’t really know them.

While mortality may SEEM depressing, I think it’s a great motivation to make a lasting impact while you’re still alive. Money won’t do it, I mean, do you know how rich your great grandparents were? I am guessing for most of you, they were not. I knew NOTHING of mine, except to say they were stoic Swedish farmers and cabinet makers (on both sides). Maybe one of them half Indian blood, and some possibly French. In any case, it’s kind of a sobering perspective that all my thoughts, dreams, fears, and memories will be watered down through the memories of others before becoming indistinguishable from the general background noise of human existence in a generation or two. This is why I decided to invest in children. If I can pass my lessons on to a few kids here and there, like good, solid lessons about what is right and wrong, I can make the human race a little better. No one may remember me, but maybe my son’s actions molded by me may make a difference in some other kid who might change the world for the better as well. That’s immortality, people; no names and faces, but actions and habits. No one may know who taught my grandmother to say “Oy yoy yoy...” but now I’m doing it. Who knows what other lessons I am passing along? I think about all the people I have helped, or tried to help, and maybe who I’ll help in the future. That makes me feel better about my own death.

I don’t fear my own death, either, although I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t make me a little nervous with anticipation; I have more of a mild stage fright than fear. I am guessing this is because I have had a few brushes with death, mostly as a kid, with one that had the whole “this is it, I’m really dead,” white tunnel seeing God kind of thing. I have also had strange experiences with the underworld, spirits, and so on. All in all, it could be an illusion, I realize that, and maybe death is really you just wink out, and there’s no spirit, no afterlife, and it’s just your brain trying to cope with the illogic of not existing. I figure if that’s the case, I won’t be around to be upset about it, so why be upset now? But I believe there is something more, and if all I have experienced is a brain-induced illusion, I am happy to have it. Who’s to say life is not a brain-induced illusion, either? Anyway, I feel 100% confident in any case that when we die, it’s all going to be okay, and to make the most out of life while you still have the meat case to do it in.

And this helps me cope with the death of others, too. I am sad to see Uncle Wayne go, but, as they say, he’s in a better place.
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