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.