Awkward sentiments | Mark’s Remarks


The older we get, the more we experience  death of people our own age. I think it’s shocking because we forget that time goes on.  We forget that the person inside us isn’t as old as our outsides.  

Every time I attend a class reunion, I walk over to a photo display that our class president and other class officers always set up. There are pictures of families, candid shots from our high school days, yearbooks and old school newspapers. There are always senior class photos off to the side of those from our class who have passed away.

Last time I saw the display, there were only a few photos. A few people had died from diseases or car accidents. We had all heard of their deaths and gotten over the shock, but it still felt weird.

There were some of us who weren’t necessarily close to the people who passed away. Still, it seems tragic and real to us, basically because we are faced with our own mortality and those of the people we were close to. So, anytime a death happens within your graduating class, it’s something that affects us all.

In high school, I remember there were some kids who passed away. It was rare, so easy to remember.  There were some car accidents. There were a couple of suicides. All shocking.  All hard to accept and believe.

But I remember having a conversation with some friends one day after such a death. An upperclassman had passed away. It was really weird. The community was reeling. Everyone was talking about it.

We were all sitting on the stoop outside the front entrance, talking about what had happened. One person in the group finally spoke up.

“Did any of you think he was a nice person?”

I think we were all shocked a bit, but our friend voiced what was surely going through all of our heads.  

The person who had passed away was not nice. People called him a jerk.  He was rude. He was a bully. He was mean. There were few, if any, redeeming qualities.  

Undoubtedly and as horrendous as it sounds to say, there were people who would not miss him.

I remember we all sat silent for a moment and pondered the question. No, the guy wasn’t a nice person.  He lived an angry, reckless life and many of us weren’t surprised he had died.  

Were we glad he had died? Surely not. Certainly not. He was a person. He had lived. He’d had a life.

I’ve now been to at least two visitations of people who were much like the guy in high school. Bombastic personalities with snide attitudes who picked on people, always complained, and went out of their way to make other people miserable.

Or so it seems to the outsider.

The visitations are weird. People almost seem relieved. When I’ve been to such wakes, I feel a little sadness for that person. I mean sure, they were a big pain in the patootie when they were alive and most people didn’t care for them.  But now, here they are and here is how the people around them are acting.

Now people aren’t cheering and celebrating, but wakes such as this are far different than the ones of people who are missed by many.

It’s sort of a shame.

Forgive me if I’m saying things aloud that many of us think from time to time.  It’s just that I’m pondering such feelings and bringing them out in the open – probably to understand my own inner feelings, which maybe I’m ashamed of.

Not long ago, another one of these deaths happened and I was able to see and hear the comments of many people I know. The sentiments were awkward, and I know most of us were feeling the same way;  this person had been a big jerk while they were alive.  W

hat were we supposed to say about them that would be sincere?

“I’m sorry for your loss” is always something I thought was a bit impersonal. Surely there is something we could come up with that is a pleasant testament to the person? 

Maybe we have a short, positive story to tell. Surely there is something.

Reflecting on such things makes me want to live a better life and be nicer to people.

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