When I die.

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I’ve watched several people I knew die in the past few years, and I’ve watched the reactions of the people around them. Which has caused me to want to post something about when I die (I am not planning on dying in the near future, I just wanted it said).

When I die, don’t feel afraid to discuss what you didn’t like about me, or what I had to say. Don’t turn me into someone perfect, someone I am not and never was, someone nobody is. Remember me as I am, not as you wish I was. Discuss the merits and problems of my ideas and try to improve upon them rather than letting them stagnate as if they have died with me. I am a human being. I am good and I am flawed, I am happy and I am angry, I am reasonable and I am unreasonable, I am right and I am wrong. I try, more than almost anything else, to do the right thing, that does not mean I always succeed.

When I remember people who have died, I remember them the same way I remember people who are living. Death doesn’t make me cut off some bits of them, exaggerate other bits, and fabricate bits that never existed. Don’t make life difficult for people who, like me, will remember me in death the way they experienced me in life. Don’t put forth an idealized (or for that matter demonized) version of me and make people afraid to remember the real me.

If you believe in heaven, and believe that I have made it there, don’t depict me as “happier now” because I’m not disabled anymore. I once read about a deaf girl who was told that she would love heaven because she would be able to hear. She replied, “In heaven, God will sign.” Any time I try to imagine heaven I come up with some equivalent to that, rather than a sense that I will be made into an unrecognizable non-autistic mold. It is humans who think that the diversity of the way we were created is a defect and that God needs to make us all identical for us to be equal. It is also humans who think “Better dead than disabled.”

But theological speculation aside, please remember me the way you thought of me when I was alive. I find it disturbing how the memory of people I knew and cared about is turned into a monument to people who didn’t exist, not as I knew them, not as the same people spoke to and about them when they were alive. And for me, the distortions designed to evoke excessive unmarred beauty are ugly and the intact truth about people is beautiful.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

4 responses »

  1. I once read about a deaf girl who was told that she would love heaven because she would be able to hear. She replied, “In heaven, God will sign.”

    That was the most wonderful thing I’ve read so far about disability and religion.

  2. Probably I will die before you do because I am almost twice as old! Until I do, I’m pretty sure I will remember you. Yep. I can’t guarantee that my memory will be completely true to who you really are, only that it will be true to my feelings. I think that I will remember that you are fluent in Feline.

    Wishing you a happy new year,

    Anne Bevington

  3. Pingback: Ballastexistenz » Blog Archive » If I am killed…

  4. “It is humans who think that the diversity of the way we were created is a defect and that God needs to make us all identical for us to be equal”.

    That is ashame. Because it is quite clear to the observant that God loves diversity. We have different races, a world full of different colors etc.

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