My dad finally passed away. In his final moments, he expressed a desire to eat a clementine but was too weak to swallow even water. For a man who didn’t care about what he ate as long as it was edible, his fixation on eating in his last days was striking. Perhaps it stemmed from his childhood in a war-torn country where eating until full was only possible in his dreams. It was the act of eating, not the quality of food, that brought joy to his life.
As a surviving member of his family, it’s hard not to dwell on the meaning of his life, as if I need to justify why he lived. Meaning, after all, is possible only within the network of symbols, but my dad had been disconnected from it for years. He died without a slight bit of awareness about what is going on in Palestine now or, more in his domain, the sudden rise of artificial intelligence.
Not that life achievements are meaningless, but towards the end, we have to become disinterested or indifferent. Social recognition turns us into objects—objects of love, respect, or even hate. Our minds then cling to them, making acceptance of death that much harder. Ultimately, being content with one’s achievements is a form of self-affirmation, as future generations may judge us differently.
Those left behind often weave them back into the fabric of meaning to eke out some meaning to be celebrated in obituaries. In doing so, we pull the departed back onto a stage where they continue to be evaluated and judged.
In the face of death, my dad probably couldn’t have cared less. I’m uncertain if my father found peace with his mortality. Despite my queries, he gave me no answers. For all I know, he could have been scared shitless of dying. I wanted to see how he confronted it, but that’s just my morbid curiosity with a faint hope that he might impart some wisdom on how it’s done.
Utterly indifferent to rituals and traditions, he never had a wedding or birthday party. Consistent with his values, he shall have no funeral either. I’ll just let him come and go like a wave in the ocean.
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