23 November 2010

Day 241: A Prayer for the Dying

A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan.  ISBN: 9780805061475.

How much do we really owe the dead?  Sure, they're the people who got us where we are today, but on the other hand... they're the people who got us where we are today.  They are deserving of respect in the sense that they were someone's loved one and those loved ones have a right to keep their memories intact, etc.  But... they're dead.  It won't hurt them if we take out their organs and give them to new people or let them rot in a field so we can study decomposition or strap them in a car so we can study the effects of crashes and bruising or put them in a deep dark hole in the ground.  So, why should a person's legacy to society end when they're dead?  Why shouldn't their bodies continue to contribute to the well being of individuals (through organ donation) or the safety and health of the community (forensic science, etc.)?

Well, there isn't a reason.  But some people do have reservations about the bodies of their loved ones being used in what they feel are unsavory ways.  And some people themselves don't want their bodies being used in that way.  My feeling on it is: if you're done with it, why do you care?  It would be like getting upset if someone decided to take some empty boxes you had put by the curb after moving.  That person did you a favor by making sure you didn't have to get rid of the boxes yourself* and they're putting them to good use so they're not just rotting away somewhere.  This is very, very practical reasoning, but it's not for everyone.

And I do understand wanting to have something sacred, about not turning everything into a commodity, but I kind of feel that memories do a better job of that than sticking someone in a $3000 casket, giving them a service that costs I-don't-know-what, putting them in the ground, and plopping a $500 stone over them.  I know I don't want anyone spending $8000 on my funeral.  I'm dead, I don't care, I don't need it, and I highly doubt you will remember me fondly when your last thoughts about me were, "Should we put her in the cedar casket with satin lining or the oak with velvet?"  If you think about it, this makes me more of a commodity than donating my body to science, only it's helping one very small and specific industry rather than being more philanthropic.  Personally, I'd rather have my dead horsemeat body do some good rather than have someone pay to "dispose" of it like a piece of garbage in an over-expensive garbage bag.  So here's what I want, my "funeral" arrangements:

Let science take whatever they want, whether it be for organ donation or whole body, whatever.  Get together at someone's house, have good food and drink, and talk.  Talk about that time we took that road trip or when we stayed up all night in college or we had that really weird conversation at an all night diner.  Talk about how I made you laugh or cry or think.  Read the collection of Rupert stories I finally managed to publish before my death, complete with voices.  Hell, get together and talk about how much of a bitch I was, if that's my legacy.  Shoving me in a dark hole in the ground with my name on a stone doesn't really seem like much of a tribute.  Build me a life-sized statue and I might just let you talk me into becoming a commodity of the funeral industry.

*We're living in a metaphor here where there's no trash pick up, okay?
**Whoops, somehow in the editing process the first sentence disappeared.  Also, I found my post has been taken out of context.  Awesome, does this mean I've arrived?

I agree with this short, but apt review from a fellow Goodreader.  Also... does anyone else think of Freddy Kreuger with this cover?

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