Death of an Almost-Stranger

Julia had just sat down to look over her notes, preparing for the next day’s presentation. Her office was pretty dim. She only liked the natural light, and a storm was coming. Before getting started, like any millennial, she decided to scroll through her Facebook feed for a minute or two. Mostly mundane stuff, and then she sees it, a death. Not a family member, not a close friend, more of an acquaintance at this point in her life, but it still sends a shock through her. Just last year a relative had passed away. Julia was indifferent. She didn’t even care to attend the funeral. And here she is, staring at an unfamiliar face and yet so many memories flood through her mind. Her brain goes into overdrive and she starts thinking and overthinking.

“It’s laughable, really,” she thinks to herself. Not a single tear shed for someone she shared blood with, and yet the loss of this person, who, at the moment she can’t even remember the last time she spoke to, is actually getting to her. She starts talking to herself.

I guess it makes sense. We’re so close in age. When it’s someone older, you think, well yeah that happens. You expect it to happen. You know it’s going to happen. You’re secretly taking bets on when it will happen. When they’re older than you, it’s easy to think, oh, that happens eventually. It’s inevitable, but I’ve got time. And then someone your age goes and all of a sudden it’s more real. Before, you think, it can’t happen to me, not yet, not right now. I know it’s unavoidable, but again, I’ve got time. But you don’t. And it can happen to you. You never know when it will happen. It’s not on your timeline. It’s not on anyone’s timeline. Because it’s not our time. The concept of time was made up, but life just kinda happens. And we live. And then we die. It could happen in the blink of an eye. Yes, you could be diagnosed with something deadly and you realize your time is ending. But most of the time, you don’t get any warning. One wrong move. One passing of a red light. One drunken night. Someone else’s drunken night. One bad meal. Being at an unfortunate place at an unfortunate time. And you’re gone…People like to think that you think about your loved ones, or rather, what you love most before you die, but is that always the case? If you don’t know that your last breath is your last, or that your last thought is your last, doesn’t that mean we could be thinking about something dumb or boring?

‘Oh, I need to get milk.’

‘I should probably call my mom. It’s been a while.’

‘I wonder what I should get the kids for Christmas. Ana sure loves Paw Patrol right now.’

‘Man, I’m really tired.’

‘A beer would be nice right about now.’

‘Should I get a dog?’

‘Damn she’s hot.’

Speaking of last, the last thoughts of others after we’re gone all seem to be the same. Have you ever noticed, whether or not the person was great, everyone is a freaking saint after they’re dead? Unless someone was truly terrible, and even then, someone will defend them. But everyone always has good thoughts and memories of people after they’re gone. It’s always, ‘Oh I remember how sweet Aly was…’ or, ‘Zack used to always make me laugh,’ or ‘Bailey just cared SO MUCH.’ And no one ever talks about their flaws, or how terrible they really were. Or the not-so-angelic actions they did. Their character. Everyone is seemingly good after they’re gone. Everyone just talks about how they’ll be missed. But that’s just for show right? Because no one wants to talk shit about a dead person because then YOU’RE the asshole. Isn’t life funny?

And then there’s the whole “legacy” thing. There’s this notion that you need to leave some type of legacy. Whether it’s a family, or a published work, or art, or some foundation that you started, or whatever…Everyone wants to think that they need to be remembered. And everyone wants people to speak well of them after they’re gone, even though they already will. Huh. But anyway, we’re trying our hardest to live life to the fullest. We try to do all these things, and create stuff, and think other things. We’re told that most people on their deathbed are always saying that their regrets were of not doing something rather than what they did. But, if you’re busy trying to get everything in before you die, are you really enjoying it? Shouldn’t we instead strive to just be? If something interesting pops up, sure, say yes. But none of these bucket lists. Like life is some sort of game and we need to collect all of these medals or pass these checkpoints or make sure we get to every level. Life should just be life. We do what we can, and we don’t try to be something we’re not. We don’t try to do things just to say that we did them. We should do things because we actually want to, and the things make us happy.

Julia laughs at herself for being so foolish. Admittedly, she thought her thoughts were rather profound. Then she quickly realized that someone else could have easily thought this beforehand, and she was silly for thinking she had come up with some sort of legacy.

She drove home with the radio quietly in the background. “Man, what if that car hit me right now? I hope they play REO Speedwagon at my funeral.”


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