Thursday, September 12, 2013

speaking ill of the dead

Nestling in my mind in the wake of an email I received: Does death confer beatification? Are the dead absolved?

The Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal recently pulled an online version of a Sept. 10 obituary that excoriated a woman who was recently deceased. The print version remains for perusal.
Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick born Jan 4, 1935 and died alone on Sept. 30, 2013. She is survived by her 6 of 8 children whom she spent her lifetime torturing in every way possible. While she neglected and abused her small children, she refused to allow anyone else to care or show compassion towards them. When they became adults she stalked and tortured anyone they dared to love. Everyone she met, adult or child was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit.
It was not immediately clear who submitted the obituary or whether it was legitimate. Whatever its somewhat vague and certainly angry assertions, it sounds true to me... and vague in ways that could indicate the pain that might be incurred if more specific information were adduced. Short and sweet: Gotcha, bitch!

Only of course there is no "gotcha" that can erase the harm allegedly done. "Closure" is for people who can't come to terms with the fact that closure is a myth. Human beings aren't sentences to which periods can be affixed. There are wounds. Sometimes there is a bit of healing. Sometimes not.

Reactions to the obituary included the outrage that anyone could place such vitriol in a space that 'should' be reserved for more glowing and sepulchral tones. But...

-- Sometimes the wounded have every right to scream. Sometimes it is utterly practical and salutary. Sometimes you gotta scream before a little peaceful silence can take root.

-- Does "never speak ill of the dead" equate with "always speak well of the dead?"

-- The best argument I can think of for not speaking ill of the dead is that it invariably adds to the burden of the one doing the speaking. The same might be said for speaking well of the dead, but that's another story. Dead is dead and speaking is the business of the living. It's not a matter of whether something is socially naughty or nice, it's a matter of what is, in the end, most useful.

-- One thing's for sure -- the dead don't give a shit ... or at least not that I know of.

I haven't got an answer for all of this. I'm just chewing my cud.

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