We need to demystify death. That trepidation and awe we feel when we think about the concept of death is not doing us plenty of good. In particular, the idea that once a person dies, they assume a god-like status that forbids the living from criticising them is ludicrous. It makes little sense because memories are what they are and cannot be twisted or erased on account of a person’s demise. The controversy around this issue often comes to the fore when a prominent person—usually a politician or government official—dies. As soon as the news filters to the public, opinions on how well they lived while on this side are divided.
For the supporters and incurable empaths, it’s all cookies and creams; no negative word about the dead will be tolerated. They are unyielding in their belief that mortality is enough reason to revere those who are no longer with us. It’s why we will not cease to hear admonitions like “Speak no evil of the dead”.
If any mention of their conduct while alive is mentioned, you can be certain it’s to highlight their real or perceived good and jettison of the bad they did.
While I admit that every human has inherent good and evil, it’s also true that the will to tilt towards any of the options lies within them also. Every living being is a product of choice. We get to decide who we want to be, how we want to Iive our lives, the way we would like to the perceived.
It’s why I am not too sentimental about death.
I belong to the school of thought that is convinced that death does not confer sainthood on people.
I also suspect that many share this view even if they won’t admit it.
We do not forget the evil someone did to us because they died. We may not hold it against them any longer, but we do not cease to remember.
Instead of banking on death to blot out our iniquities, the question we should be asking is how do we ensure we are on the right side of posterity when we die? How do we make certain that people aren’t too divided on our legacy when we are no more?
The answer is to live right.
The reason politicians get more flak than praise in this part of the world such that they need people to fight for them even in death is the uninspiring legacy they bequeath. As long as we have more of thieving, uncaring leaders, there will never be anything close to a consensus on how well they conducted themselves on this side.
There’s such a thing as exit capital. It’s the social value an individual accrues towards their death.
It’s what posterity remembers a person by; the value people place on the memory of a deceased.
Many times, the beneficiaries of a person’s exit capital are their family and close associates.
When you visit that elder whom your late dad knew while he was alive and they are excited and eager to offer all the assistance you need at the mention of whose son you are, you are reaping the benefits of your dad’s exit capital.
In the same vein, if the vast majority of the populace have nothing good to say about your late dad, then you are the unfortunate bearer of the ill will they elicit. Little can be done to embellish the memory of a terrible person. There may be attempts, but they will fall flat in the face of facts.
Of course, the advice to be good and do right by others isn’t for the deceased. It’s for those of us who are still privileged to draw our breaths.
We are the ones who still have the opportunity to mend our ways or retrace our steps where we may be erring. In a more vocal world where people aren’t afraid to voice their views anymore, it’d be foolhardy to assume you’ll earn a halo simply because you transitioned.
It doesn’t work that way.
And if you shrug and say you do not care because you won’t be alive anyway, remember you have family.
If you care the least bit about how they’ll fare when you are no more, you’ll begin to do what’s best for them.