“I don’t want to be talked about in the past tense”

Thoughts inspired by the death of legendary actor Robin Williams.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Final Fantasy VIII, as it, and its main character Squall (who I am very similar to) tends to come up often in my writing. Any time that I am confronted by death, whether it has been in my personal life, or in the broader sense, I tend to find myself lingering on a thought, that is best summed with a quote from the aforementioned Squall:

“Will they… Will they talk about me this way if I die, too? Squall was this and that. Using past tense, saying whatever they want? I won’t have it!”

I can understand the desire, the urgent need to talk about the death of another. I myself have already shared a few things relating to the death of Robin Williams, an actor who touched the lives of many; I have been especially quick to share links or resources whose goal is to raise money for awareness and treatment of depression.

However… I am always a bit… appalled? Maybe that’s too strong a word… but astonished, definitely. I am astonished to consistently see how little time and effort the average person puts toward recognizing the living. Only when someone dies, does that same person take pains to give recognition for someone’s life work. Why does someone have to die before they are appreciated? Why is it only after a great actor dies, that people come out in droves to purchase his or her movies, and to talk about his or her greatest work? Why does someone have to die before other people come gushing forth, with what that person meant to them?

When my sister died, I was saddened, but… I didn’t pretend to be traumatized. I hadn’t talked to her in years. We were close as small children, but after that spent many years apart. Our lives went in wildly different directions. When I was present for her viewing, I was deeply hurt, but I chose not to linger on the past. I refused to allow myself to be consumed with regrets, the could-have-beens and the should-have-beens. And while I did spend time reflecting on memories of her, I vowed to keep her alive in the present, and to not be obsessed with “what was.” I have never wanted to be talked about in the past tense, and I wasn’t about to do the same thing to my own sister.

Maybe it’s a foolish notion. After all, everything has a past, and all things that were once alive, and now dead, have a “was.” Perhaps the crux of my, distaste, for being thought of in a past tense, is… if I am not good enough to be remembered, and thought of, while I am alive, why bother honoring me in death? I find the idea insulting. I’m sure there are those out there who wouldn’t lift a finger to recognize me while I am alive, but if I was dead, they’d suddenly remember what my worth had been in their lives. They’d pretend to care. To those people, I say, “to Helheim with you.”

What point am I trying to make? For the love of all life itself, – appreciate – everyone and everything around you that you hold dear! Don’t wait until someone dies to honor them! Embrace and cherish what you love, while it is with us. Don’t wait until death, to keep memory alive…

FIN

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