I think we all handle things in different ways. Today I came across an article from the ex-wife of now deceased Stone Temple Pilots musician Scott Weiland. It is making the rounds to mixed reviews. Some love her honesty, and see it as something of a wake up call to anyone who would glamorize the whole “inner demons” thing that so many artists, musicians and other assorted famous people have going on. Others believed she was bashing her ex-husband, and felt it was “too soon,” that she was speaking ill of the dead.
Do the dead care if we speak ill of them? What comes after death anyway? It’s something that NOBODY knows. We can all speculate, or read books written by other human beings who speculate. Many take comfort from Bibles. I don’t. To me, a Bible contains as much truth as any work of fiction – which is to say that it contains some truth: the truth of human nature.
When I arrived at work this morning, I was called in to see my supervisor immediately. I knew something was wrong, because usually she isn’t there at 7:00 a.m. My first thought was that I had made some grievous mistake and was being reprimanded. In hindsight, that would have been better.
No. She was calling me in to break bad news: one of our coworkers, someone I called my friend, passed away last night. We don’t know why. All I know is this: she was far too young. She was in her thirties. She was beautiful. She always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. She was loved. She was bubbly, and full of life.
And just like that, her time on earth has ended.
When I was reading the article about Scott Weiland, I thought about the Orson Scott Card novel Speaker of the Dead. Nobody is perfect. There are dozens of imperfections that we can all list about one another. Very real flaws and struggles. Somehow when someone dies, we don’t want to talk about those parts, we just want to whitewash their life and think about the good. Because we know that the person is leaving a gaping hole, a void that won’t be filled.
Maybe talking about the struggles and the things that made them real is just too much.
I thought of another novel that I loved in college, Kurt Vonnegut’s Hocus Pocus. In the novel, the protagonist, who is dying, talks about various people and their struggles. He refers to his mother as “the only success story” in the book: she managed to lose weight on Weight Watchers before falling through a roof in a Niagara Falls gift shop.
My friend had struggled with her weight, and she was successfully losing weight.
I know these thoughts are depressing. But the truth is we have the time that we have on this planet without knowing how long that time will be. We can be like Heath Ledger or Marilyn Monroe, or any number of people who burned brightly and flickered out too soon, or we can be Keith Richards and live so much longer than anyone can anticipate.
What we can do is love and appreciate one another while we are spinning around the sun. We can bring a bit of light into the lives of others like Melissa did.
Rest in Peace.