“Who will miss me when I die?” I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. Not just for myself, but for the people I’ve encountered in my short time on this planet as well. I think that most of us would rather not think of that question or anything at all related to death. We avoid it. It’s scary. I don’t think the concept of death really hits home for any of us, mostly because we choose not to look at it.
It’s a hard concept to handle. Have you ever left an apple to just sit somewhere? At first, perhaps it’s under ripe. It has not yet reached that zenith where it tastes its best, when it feels its best in your mouth, when the juice is sweetest. Suppose you never eat it. It sits there. It passes its peak. Days go by. Its flesh inside start starts shrink. Individual cells are decaying and bursting on by one. The skin starts to shrivel around the shrinking mass and slowly, mold, fungi and various other organisms nibble away at it until there is scarcely anything left. That apple is gone, barring perhaps a strange smudge on the counter where you left it.
None of us are any different than an apple, and that is a horrifying realization to have. To know you will peak. To know that after a point, you will slowly and steadily decay – if you’re lucky.
I’m left thinking about the strange smudge on the counter. Do we get a smudge? Some remnant that says we were ever here at all? There are books, buildings, benches and bricks that bear the name of deceased people. Not everyone that has passed has gotten that treatment though, nor will we all in the future. And, it’s hard to fathom even doing so when the number of human beings that have lived and died on earth is around 107 billion and growing.
To be frank, our “smudge” is the people that will miss us when we pass.
That is almost more difficult to think about than the actual act of dying. To know that our greatest legacies are but the memories we leave behind with the people that cared enough to know us. That’s it. After death, that is all most of us will ever have, all we will ever be; memories that fade with every falling tear. It’s tragic and beautiful.
It’s fucking depressing.
But, and that is a huge but, it does not have to be dreadful and ominous. Looking at our life and death in this manner is actually quite polarizing. It makes it very clear as to what the most permanent thing we can do is – to become a memory. Really think about that for a moment. Anything and everything about you will be reduced to little more than a memory in another human being’s mind.
After we accept this inevitability we are left with really only a few choices as how to live our lives (if one is interested in that sort of thing of course). We are left with choosing who we want to carry these fleeting memories of us and whether they will be good or bad. That is all.
When we die, there will be people who will remember the cruel things we have said and done. There will be people who remember the kind words and deeds. There will be people that will remember our darkest moments that most of us rather not admit we have. There will be people who will remember laughter.
The real question of life and death is not how and when it will end, but rather what kind of memory we choose to be.