Apropos of nothing in particular, I have some thoughts about my (hopefully not imminent) death, and the people who will decide to write things about me immediately thereafter. Consider this piece a bit of advance planning.
1. When I die, some people will be moved to write touching pieces about me, talking about all the kind and fine things that I did for people, and for my community, and for them in particular, and that will be their way of dealing with the fact I’m dead, and that this is how they’ll want to remember me, or will want to be seen remembering me. This is fine by me; I like it when people remember the good things I’ve done, and I like the idea that a moment I’ve shared with someone or a thing I did resonated with them enough that it’s something they’d want to share at my passing. That’s lovely.
2. Other people will feel the urge to try to write a balanced assessment of my life and influence, noting the kind things I did but, to a greater or lesser degree, not skimping on my unkindnesses or my lapses in judgment or empathy. This is also fine by me, because I’m not a perfect person, and while I try on balance to be the sort of person people remember well, I have my bad days (and weeks, and months, and possibly years). In any event it’s impossible to be on the side of angels for every moment in one’s life, or even on the side of every human you meet. If someone decides to try to measure me in full right after I’ve kicked the bucket, well, that’s ambitious, but I’m not going to blame them for trying. They might even succeed!
3. Still other people will decide it is time for an accounting of all my misdeeds, fuck ups and trespasses, perhaps because they are sick of seeing all the treacly remembrances of category one, or the “measured” assessments of category two are a little too artificially measured for their taste, and someone needs to speak truth to power, even if that power is newly dead. Alternately, it’s entirely possible that unintentionally or otherwise, I was a completely awful person to someone (or they believe I was a completely awful person in general), and they feel compelled to share that out loud.
And you know what? This is also fine. I have been an awful person from time to time, and awful to specific people. Sometimes that’s because I’m just me, and I’m occasionally cranky or clueless or stupid, like anyone else. We don’t always know to correct our mistakes, and sometimes we learn it’s too late to do so. But then there are the times when I did go after someone, because they needed a stabbing in the eye and I just happened to have a pointy stick in my hand. I regret that some people who I did not mean to rub the wrong way will think poorly of me when I die. If possible, I would have liked to make amends to them. There are other people, however, that I will be delighted to have antagonized, yea even onto death, because they were terrible people and they got what they deserved from me. I’ll see those motherfuckers in Hell.
4. In any event, I will be dead, so it’s safe to say that I personally won’t care one way or another what people say about me, good, bad or otherwise. I don’t believe in an afterlife, and if there is one despite my expectations, the last goddamn thing I will want to do with it is scroll down social media to see what people are saying about me. People who write about me after my death are doing it for themselves, and that’s fine — it’s one way of processing my death and what I meant to them, positive, negative or some combination thereof, while I was alive. I will not be healed or injured by anything anyone has to say about me when I’m dead, because, again, I’ll be dead. I’ll be beyond worrying about reputation or standing or my influence on current or future generations.
5. That said, from this side of the veil, I can say that I expect the whole range of remembrances when I kick off. Everyone’s interaction with me is different and personal, and to the extent people are moved to speak of me at all, they should speak their truth about me, even if that particular truth is not flattering to me, or not what some people would consider appropriate during a period where people who knew and cared for me are in mourning. I feel fairly confident that the people who will mourn me will be able to handle the occasional less than perfectly kind social media declaration about me, or my life and its work.
6. While I am not currently the boss of you and will be even less so after I am dead, nevertheless here is a small request: If, right after I am gone, you see someone post a remembrance of me that you disagree with, for whatever reason, just… let it go. Don’t respond in the comments, don’t write an outraged rebuttal, and certainly don’t decide to gather up all your excitable little friends to gang up on whoever is saying mean things about me because my honor must be defended (or my honor must be torn down, or whatever). One, why? Let me repeat: I will be dead. I literally won’t care. Two, being shitty to other people in the service of my memory just means you’re being shitty and using me as an excuse, and, yeah, just don’t. Be shitty on your own time.
Three, and again: Everyone will have had a different experience of me, and their experience of me will also be informed by who they were when they met me. As long as they are speaking the truth of their experience of me, I’m fine with it. As far as I’m concerned, they should be able to have their say, without taking a ration of crap for it from anyone else.
When all the remembrances of every one who feels compelled to write about me directly after my death are added up, the composite of me it represents will still be incomplete — but I suspect it will be an interesting one to read. And while I’ll be dead then and won’t care, right now I can say I’ll be sad to miss it. All of it.