I Was an Asshole and I’m Sorry

This morning, I had a visceral reaction to a story out of Minnesota, where a woman’s husband had fallen, bumping his head on the basement stairs, then passed away overnight. He was taken to Mayo Hospital in Rochester, and then transferred to a funeral home. Once the body was there, it got mixed up with another body and was cremated against the wishes of the wife. The woman was devastated and had filed a lawsuit.

I reacted in a negative way, calling for her to “get over it.”

Regardless of my point, the reaction I got was immediately negative. And, after I had time to think, I came to a much different conclusion:

While allowing for those, like myself, who regard death as a consequence, the finality of life, I can also see the deep sense of wonderment and love those who treat it differently hold. Whether religious or not, the moment of death can be a meaningful moment. As an atheist, death is the end of the story of an individual, making the memories all that more meaningful – the dead body, a poignant reminder of it all.

My wife relates the story of being able to visit her grandfather after he passed away. She was able to hold his hand and gaze upon his lined face, allowing the memories to wash over her, finalizing her appreciation of who he was in her life (as well as the lives of others) and physically taking the mantle of his goodness, carrying it out for the rest of her life.

I more than likely botched her reasoning, but that’s how I understood it, when she explained it to me.

When my grandmother died, years ago, I was four-and-a-half hours away, waiting for my bride to arrive back home from an East Coast road trip with her best friend. I was at home in Southwestern Minnesota in those days. She was going to arrive at 6:00 AM and the funeral for my grandmother was at 10:30 AM. She had driven through the night and was tired. I felt it was more important for her, pregnant, to get some rest. Even being a pallbearer, I skipped the funeral. My grandma was gone and, to me, that part of life was history. I moved on.

But I don’t have to put that on everyone else. So yes, I apologize.

Carry on.



  1. chigau (違う) says

    Good apology.

    I still think a lawsuit is in order.
    The corpse-handlers fucked-up.
    It’s the USoA, somebody needs to pay.

  2. tecolata says

    I am an atheist from the age of 13. When my beloved cats needed euthanizing I held their paws and then buried them in the garden. I absolutely know that when their brains died so did their personality and charm and intelligence and affection and uniqueness. But it was still important to treat them with the respect these most dignified of animals deserved. And when plants grown above their graves I know their bodies are doing what nature intended, recycling. (I call the lemon tree and azaleas the cats’ 10th lives.)
    It’s not a joke when someone dies. And a person’s wishes should be honored. It’s wrong to tell anyone in pain to “get over it”. I am glad you realize that. No one knows another’s suffering and it should never just be dismissed.
    (note I am talking about genuine suffering, not some bigot claiming to suffer because gay folks got married, be it understood)

  3. miserble git says

    My maternal Grandmother would have heartily agreed with you. She had accompanied me to another relatives funeral. At the end of the funeral the lady who had arranged the funeral came up to my Grandmother who was in her early 80’s and asked “My Dear, have you told your relatives what you want for your funeral?”
    Her response was a pithy “No I won’t be there, so what I want is not important”.

    She had seen enough death in life from the first and second world wars, Tutsi and Hutu tribal wars,the Mau Mau uprising, to death in the family from illness to car accidents the only thing to do was get on with it.

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