I think all deaths are heart-breakers. But I experience some deaths to be the ultimate heart-breakers.
My church distributes a weekly bulletin that among else contains a list of deaths. A more detailed list can be found published on a special bulletin board of illnesses and deaths.
I’ve always be troubled by the sight of one specific detail in these announcements. It’s not the cause of death. It’s not the length of illnesses the passing person experienced. It’s the brackets behind some names.
Have you ever seen them? They’re like these:
- Mrs. Jane Doe (Mr. Jack Doe’s wife)
- Mr. John Dough (Mr. Gove’s nephew)
- Mr. Jack Damien (Mrs. Gove’s son-in-law)
Even in their deaths some people need signifier just so people know who they are! In their deaths! What an ultimate tragedy!
It’s a bit more tolerable if the signifier is about the deceased being someone’s father or mother – for it marks a good inter-generation progression. Nonetheless, what to make of those who need to be identified as someone’s in-law?
This is admittedly a biased observation and sentiment. Not everyone will share my anguish. For me, I deem leaving a legacy behind to be an ultimately important goal and I deliberately prioritise it over many other aspects of my life. As my life is striding to leave one segment and starting another one, I always look back and ask: “What changes have I effected here? What mark am I leaving behind?”
Thus far, I’m satisfied with all the marks I’ve made in my professional and personal lives. I hope I’ve left intelligible and meaningful marks on people’s lives that have crossed path with me, on the systems I leave behind, on the communities I’ve had my hands on.
When my own death comes, I hope my life would have been meaningful enough to leave lasting legacies that there should be no need to know me as someone’s someone – just plain me.