I don’t know a more delicate way to start this post, really.
Gerald Ford is dead. James Brown is dead.
Please, get over it and go on living. It’ll be your turn at an unknown date, so make the most of it.
Don’t get me wrong: I was saddened by both deaths. Of course, since Ford was President when I was born, was 93 years old at the time of his death, and kept a very low profile after his presidency, the death that really shocked me and saddened me was that of James Brown. I mean, the man was amazing and incredibly limber for his stocky shape and full of élan vital and , well, a full twenty years younger than our 38th President at the time of his death.
Death, no matter what form it comes in, is very touching and humbling. Death distills a person’s essence until we can only see that which defined them and nothing else; by the same token, someone’s death distills our feelings for that person and can either bring us the pain and sorrow of unfinished business, or the liberation of a life well-lived and its end.
But the distillate is hard to reach. Most of the time our feelings lie somewhere in between the petty and the sublime, and our dreams can be vicious reminders of that.
Death, of course, affects those closest to the deceased most strongly.
My thoughts are with the Ford family, who looked so unbearably sad and had to remain in a guise of composure as thousands of cameras panned in on their grief.
My thoughts are also with James Brown’s four wives and all his kids– even if life with Mr. Brown was probably a more tumultuous time than with most people.
But here goes the soapboxing part of this post, of course:
They are dead.
Nothing and no one will ever bring them back.
They are dead.
No one outside of family and close friends will truly comprehend the loss of their family members.
They are dead.
And no amount of celebration, viewing, post-mortem kissing or other things will truly matter years or even days from now.
I realize that everyone has their own way of mourning and it’s healthy to mourn. But is it truly warranted to display a corpse for several days in all its gruesome silence? Does the country as a whole need to be semi-paralyzed for an entire day because of mourning?
I realize people like having an extra day off, especially in time for the holidays, but isn’t it excessive? The Federal government’s paralysis doesn’t accomplish much at all other than create added work the following day (this coming from someone who looooooves to goof off, mind you). Also, the renaming thing and the instant memorial planning for everyone…. well, I just don’t know. Memorializing someone is a fitting tribute, but can’t we let a little time pass? Do things have to be instant and final? Did the last Pope really deserve to be in the fast track to sainthood days after his death, for instance?
Look: it’s very well and fine to remember those who’ve passed on. But I think that, especially in ANY DEAD PRESIDENT’S case, grinding the country to a halt and broadcasting the procession and displaying a DEAD BODY is excessive and inconvenient. Standing for hours to watch a casket makes no sense. Going in the 29-degree windchilled air to watch a hearse go by is kind of sick. And kissing dead people –no matter how amazing a performer they were when alive– is downright creepy (but not much else can be expected from Michael Jackson’s crazy ass).
One elderly lady was interviewed on the local evening broadcast. She was so excited that she got to see "history in the making." She echoed the sentiment of some people who were there with incredibly young children, who looked quite blue, as both the 31st and the 1st were very cold, rainy days.
History in the making? Theoretically, yes. I mean, there is a weird buzz in the air when business is not as usual, and of course we got to hear the 21-gun salute from our bedroom.
But first and foremost it’s someone’s death, not a street fair or the 4th of July. And the mourning is not our own.
It belongs to those who knew their dead well.