Thursday, 23 April 2009


I've been thinking about death and what we leave behind when we are gone a lot lately.

Two people in my life, acquaintances really, have died over the last few weeks.  And that, along with the fact that today would have been my Grandad's birthday has had me thinking.

One of the people I barely knew, we met twice that I can think of (although I am sure there are other times when I was much younger).  But my parents knew her better.  Her death was expected and was probably the best thing in the circumstances after years of illness.  For the first time the idea of death as a release makes some sense to me.

The other person I knew for over four years.  I knew them but they were a very private person and kept to themselves a lot.  But we saw each other regularly and I valued their presence in my life.  Me and one other would tease him about certain things and we'd laugh.  Another friend and I would be discussing books and literature and he'd listen, occasionally adding the odd comment in his way.  His death was sudden and unexpected.  I'm struggling more with his death and I'm quite sad about it.  But several us have agreed it was the way he would have wanted to go - he had a normal day then slipped away in his sleep.  No illness or suffering, completely independant to them end.

I think that's probably the way I would want to go too, living right till the end and not knowing it was coming.   In my opinion it's almost the best way to die.   It's the first time I've really contemplated how we die and what happens as such at the time and it's not a particularly comfortable subject.  

But what I've mainly been thinking about is how we remember people after they are gone.  How we explain who they were, what they did and why they mattered.  

I don't know how I would explain who the two people were or even really who my Grandad was.  Because I could tell you.  But to do it quickly and succiently would miss out so much.  And anything I would describe to you would be different to what my parents would say about my Grandad or my friends about the friend who died.  Their families would say different things too.  

And any description or memory I could give you could hurt others who didn't see them that way.  Learnt that one the hard way earlier this week when a friend repeated what someone had said when describing who the person who died was.  Hearing those words hurt.  And as she put it, it wasn't the legacy you'd want to leave behind as a memory of who you were.  But then that person barely knew him.

So all I can say about legacies is that for me I'd want the legacy I leave behind to be that I was Emma and that I mattered.  Because all we ever need to do in life is to love, to be loved (if we can) and to do something that matters.  Make it count.

And I really wish that the two people I know who died recently and my Grandad (as well as my other loved ones who have died) could have that as their legacy too.  But they do.  Because that's how I remember them.  With a smile on my face and warm feelings in my heart and the knowledge that they made a difference and mattered to me.

1 comment:

rickismom said...

In Jewish tradition, during the week's mourning period after a death, people come to "comfort" the mourners. And the prefered way to do this is by telling the mourners GOOD things about the deceased. This gives them a chance to see the larger picture, what he/she meant to others.


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