There’s been an alarming uptick in deaths among my friends and colleagues recently. In the last year or so, I’ve attended four funerals. Later this week, I’ll be attending a fifth.
Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s not. But with death, we seek answers. I thought one such answer might be found by looking at causes. Framed this way, those two lists of names now reads: suicide, cancer, stroke, cancer, suicide, cancer, stroke, stroke, suicide, accident, congenital disease, cancer, suicide, overdose. The ugly reality of aging, angst and plain bad luck. I think I’d rather just remember who they were and not the circumstances of how they departed.
Remembering is a powerful thing. It’s free. It’s also an honor of sorts. Neuroscientist David Eagleman jokingly said as much in his amazing book, Sum.
There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.
So if you’ve lost someone, say his or her name. Do it now. If not out loud, then at least in your head. You never know who’s listening. While you’re at it, try dispatching a few random hellos to the living too. I’ve learned that we can’t always assume your friends will be there tomorrow. The time for hello is now. Today. This very minute even.