By Kim W.
Let's talk about what's left when you die. Sounds like a blast, right? Trust me. We'll have fun.
Physically, what's left is an obituary and a funeral. Unless you're a rockstar, or globally influential, in which case you may expect flowers along a fence somewhere. And unless I really get moving on solving that water crisis in Africa, I'm probably stuck with option one.
If I were hit by a bus today, my obituary would really sound pretty lame. Here goes, with some redactions because you, dear reader, and I, are not all that close yet:
Kimberly [Middle Name] [Last Name] of San Francisco, California, passed away Friday August 10th at the age of 28.
She was born in California to parents [Mama Fantastique] and [The Captain of Righteousness]. She is survived by her husband [Dr. MoneyPants].
Kimberly studied Theater and French at Arizona State and worked at [Bad Ass Startup].
Her hobbies included flying airplanes, circus arts, and injuring herself while trying to run.
She is survived by her husband, her brother, her parents, and a rather small extended family.
Now, aside from a rather unusual list of hobbies, it sure doesn't look like I accomplished much. When I started thinking about this, my immediate reaction was, "Well, one day I'll have babies, at least! People who make children can't be wastes of space! That will validate my existence!". Nope: Rationalization Denied. Let's take this thought experiment even farther. Let's say I'm barren so I can't produce more of me, and maybe I break my wrists and can never type again, so I can't work. Oh, and my husband dumps me, just to round out the picture. What am I left with? That's where this shit gets tricky. When we derive all our value from the next possession or accomplishment or accolade, we invalidate our day to day. If you say, I won’t be happy until I do/get X, then what happens if you never do *it*? Or, if you do get *it*, and you still feel empty? As my new friend Jill says: you're just moving the goalpost.
So let's think about the other thing left when you die: the funeral. I went to a wedding once where the bridesmaids and groomsmen couldn't think of anything to say about the couple that wasn't a fact you could look up in a phone book. "She is a receptionist. He is a salesman. They are married. Today is Saturday". Nouns everywhere. It was horribly depressing because there was no connection between the people who were supposed to be their nearest and dearest. This is what I fear my friends will say about me when I die and it scares the shit out of me. "She was Kim. Now she is dead. Her dog is cute." But really, is it my fault they've got nothing to say about me? After all, I'm a barren, deformed, trapeze artist spinster. Kind of a shitty deck to be dealt, right?
What if this barren, deformed, trapeze artist spinster was Trish. Or my fabulous mother-in-law (yes, she's fabulous, I'm not kidding). Or EJ, my friend from circus who’s broken his back twice and is way better at life and trapeze than I’ll ever be. Or any of the people you meet in this world who truly affect you. If you wiped out all of those people's 'accomplishments' and threw their funeral today, everyone they know would stand up and say how they were impacted by that person's life.
It's not about the nouns. It's about the verbs. I don't want to people to say, "Kim was funny", I want them to say, "We laughed together". Not "She was smart" but "We learned from eachother". Not "She was an office manager", but "Damn, girl could stock a mean fridge". This is how I want to live my life. Engaging in, interacting with, and enjoying as much as I can of the day to day experiences, and the people that fill them.
Are you having fun yet? The depressing talk of obituaries and maimed circus freaks didn't do it for you? Damn. Then you're probably not invited to my funeral. Unless of course, you want to say something extremely flattering. Then you’re in. I’m not above hiding plants at the audience of my own funeral.
In all seriousness, this post was inspired by the recent death of my cousin Megan who died at the age of 26. She’d checked the donation box on her license, but her family was unsure of her wishes and almost missed out on the chance to donate her organs. But they did choose to donate, and out of tragedy comes at least five people who will be eternally grateful for her gift. Please take a moment to tell your family your wishes!