"You’re Next" and Speaking Ill of the Dead

The experience of having a parent die can jump start our thinking about our own mortality. At a recent Café an attendee mused, “it’s like a veil is gone, and you’re next.” We’ve talked a lot about how death related experiences in our youth either comfort us or leave us questioning. One woman discovered an entry in her departed mother’s diary recounting her own mother’s death, and realized that as a young teen she hadn’t been included in this major family event. Parents often struggle with whether to expose their children to death or not in an effort to protect them. Of course it depends on the child, the family, and the circumstance, but even very young children are amazingly curious and accepting. Children can be sensitive to emotional changes in the family and without any real information to pin it to can suffer. Beginning to understand death and participate within the safety of the family in managing loss can be a positive tool for resilience in life.




So often, death is not discussed in families, and generations of avoidance can end in secrets and potentially life-changing knowledge (for the living) being buried forever. The dictum “not to speak ill of the dead” is credited to Chilon of Sparta, who was considered one of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece. In this, the 21st century AD, Chilon’s 6th century BC words still seem to hold sway. Someone lamented at last weeks’ Café that only hearing the good about relatives at funerals can rob the living descendants of ever really knowing who they were. If we think about the best wisdom we can pass on we might discover some of it in the form of cautionary tales resulting from our foibles, mistakes and worst choices! Perhaps it’s time to rethink that ancient wisdom.


As ever, we discuss the big and perhaps unanswerable questions. How to best embrace the knowledge that death awaits us, to incorporate non-existence into existence? For some, death means simply the end, while others believe life continues on. While many aspects of dying and death are mysteries, living life, although often surprising, is not so mysterious! One attendee offered his philosophy and Rx saying that “we are beings filled with goodness, creativity and love,” and that he asks himself daily “How do I make meaning and joy today?”


As in physical death, what’s known as “presence in absence,” can be just as devastating a loss. Poet Brandon Leake’s performance last week on America’s Got Talent chillingly identifies that.


In the movies, “How I Could Not Be Among You,” 1974, was credited by one attendee as “opening my eyes to the glory of death awareness and acceptance.” Quite an accolade!


We spent some time highlighting life affirming things among them were ISDA, International Sonoran Desert Alliance, isdanet.org, and the Magical Moon Foundation, magicalmoon.org. That reminded me of the incredible documentary, ‘The Biggest Little Farm,” a kismet tale of truly making abundant rich life from what was once very dead. Also of note is Best Friends no-kill animal sanctuary, bestfriends.org, which has stellar detailed Covid preparedness sheets including window signs in service of our best friends!

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