Sunday With My Thoughts – Life After Death

“Here he goes again!”

I can hear the cries of people tired of me writing about this stuff.

BUT . . . it’s not about what they think; it is, in fact, about stuff. Our stuff.

Every so often, starting when we were in our 30s, we take stock of what we have, and look at whatever provisions we should make for the time when we are no longer kicking around this rock. These provisions used to include the disposition of things we put value on (say, a keepsake as opposed to a drinking glass . . . although sometimes they can be one and the same).

The provisions are only good if we both die at the same time, say, for instance, our heads exploding as we listen to the news. If either one of us dies first, whatever plans we made for our stuff will likely be changed by the survivor.

So, this is, really, about the life after death of our stuff. I wrote a small piece on that HERE, and that just dealt with cups. We have many more things than just cups.

I’m only going to deal with stuff that is “mine”. I put that word in quotes because there is not an actual “mine” and “yours” in our lives. It’s our cars, our house, our combined money, our everything we own anywhere at any time.

But functionally, there are things we call “yours” and “mine”, mostly for convenience. If I say “we’ll drive your car”, we both know we are driving the Tahoe, for example. I think that is the same with most couples, although often it’s more literal for other couples than it is for us.

Plus, even though they are ours, Melisa has very little to do with the camera equipment, most computer equipment, and nothing to do with the guns and knives (as in pocket knives) we own. By the same token, while they are ours, I do very little with the cooking paraphernalia we own. I may photograph some of the teapots, but I don’t ‘do’ anything with them. Those are Melisa’s interest and hobby.

And that is fine as we both live. But what happens to our stuff if we both die?

We’ve gone to estates sales, antique stores, and other places that can be accurately be described as temporary depositories of “dead people’s stuff”.

Some things are easy. No matter how much any of our relatives might want them, the guns are going to get sold, and the money added to the estate, such as it is. But, what about books, posters, mementos of our lives that might mean something to us but are essentially junk to anyone else? Melisa’s cookbooks, my comic collections, those two perhaps might be easy to dispose to appropriate family members. Some might care about one thing or another, but you know, it’s kind of morbid to speak about it now since I don’t know if we’ll even have the stuff when we actually die (hopefully in 25-30 years, or so).

I have things which are of great value to me . . . as a living person. My writing, my blog, my photographs. Associated with all that there is a lot of supporting office equipment; a powerful computer, scanner, color printer, multiple drives, a crap-load of software.

It might seem easy to “give that to someone”. In fact, I know someone that might want my photos, might want my writing . . . or think they do.

What it would require of them would be to learn a lot more about computers, programs, different file formats, how I have everything stored, etc. etc. Not just learn more; learn multiple times more than what they currently know about any of that, or ever cared to learn.

There is no one in my life that could just walk in, sit at my computer, and be able to do much beyond get frustrated.

Same for my camera equipment. Same for my writing; it too has migrated into various formats and supporting programs; we’re not talking about journals here, handwritten and neatly filed.

That’s where this blog, SmugMug, and Picasa help a little.

A small portion, and I mean a very small portion, of what I have in photos can be found on SmugMug and Picasa. The advantage of those two photo sites is that everything there has already been post-processed, and both sites allow the owner (or anyone with the password) to download the whole content.

Honest, the rest of the photos might as well be scrapped unless someone has my dedication of taking any given photo, cropping it, cleaning it up, adjusting it, writing a story to go with it, and then share it. The problem is they won’t know the story. Won’t know how I do stuff, won’t know how to duplicate “my look” for the photos.

Why I say the rest of my stuff, on my hard drives and multiple backups, might as well be junked.

The connection to me of any given photo is not that the photo exists . . . it is what I do with it. I captured something with an intent to “do something with it”, and that goes out the window when I die.

So, we got photos taken care of . . . anything not already in SmugMug or Picasa can be junked. Everything in SmugMug and Picasa can be downloaded . . . for whatever reason, I don’t know. Anyone who would look at it has already done so, and they are not likely to go back and look at it again (I know; I track SmugMug visits).

So what would be the use of anyone downloading the photos? A moment of sentimentality, and then it’s just more digital junk.

What about leaving it up there for future people who might find the photos interesting?

Well, SmugMug costs a fair amount each year. I suppose I could provide some money for it, but then someone would have to handle it, do the paperwork, etc. All for about 20 viewers on a good month.

What about my writing . . . well, there’s this blog, and it currently has almost everything I ever wrote. I’m referring to fiction. A bunch of opinions, as well.

But that takes money as well. I pay so WordPress won’t put ads at the bottom of my posts, I pay for extra storage space, I pay for special fonts.  Again, I could make provisions, but . . .

No, anyone who enjoys what I write (I can count them in one hand) has already read my stuff, and if they are honest, they will admit they don’t go back and re-read it . . .

. . . but, if you are one of them few, and think you might, go save what you need now.  It’s gonna go away when I do.

Really, the value of things I care for rests in me being alive. After that, they just become part of the memory of me, and within a very short while, that too will fade.

So, here we are . . . we are at a point of our lives where the idea of being dead is not as far-fetched as it once seemed; it could literally happen tomorrow, or the next day. Or 30 years from now.

But meanwhile, we look around at all the things we’ve accumulated, and we come to an inescapable conclusion. Junk; just junk someone will walk through after we are gone, and ask the person running the estate sale “are you willing to sell me this for $2 less than the $4 that’s marked on there?”.

So, with every revision of our will, it becomes more simple. Sell everything, and only deal with the money. No one really wants the junk. They say they do, but come on, be honest. Even if there are some who want something of mine, it will just sit somewhere until they too pass from this world, and then the piece will have even less meaning to the survivors.

We’re going one step more . . . we’re going to get rid of almost everything we don’t look at or admire at least on a monthly basis, and do so while we still live. We have memories, and if those begin to go, we’ll make up some to take their place, or better yet, get new memories to carry us forward.

We can’t leave memories to anyone, and those really are the only important things in life.

If someone does not already have a memory of us, holding a piece of junk in their hand is not going to mean much to them. And if someone does have memories of us, well, then they don’t need the piece of junk after all.

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I’ve taken to including this for my opinion pieces (when I remember). Of course, it says nothing for or against the merits of the content.

Reading Ease
A higher score indicates easier readability; scores usually range between 0 and 100.
Readability Formula Score
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 78.5

Grade Levels
A grade level (based on the USA education system) is equivalent to the number of years of education a person has had. Scores over 22 should generally be taken to mean graduate level text.

Readability Formula Grade
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 6.2
Gunning-Fog Score 9.1
Coleman-Liau Index 7.7
SMOG Index 6.5
Automated Readability Index 5.3
Average Grade Level 7.0

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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8 Responses to Sunday With My Thoughts – Life After Death

  1. Kerry S. says:

    I always love a cheery anecdote with my coffee in the morning! ;)

    Your final paragraph sums up the piece beautifully (and gave me goose bumps):
    “If someone does not already have a memory of us, holding a piece of junk in their hand is not going to mean much to them. And if someone does have memories of us, well, then they don’t need the piece of junk after all.”

    Regular clear-outs of stuff are wonderfully cathartic. In our house, the organisation or disarray of our cupboards and bookshelves are generally indicative of our collective mental state at any given point in time. A clutter-free environment really does make for a tidy mind!

    Because our photos are all digital (and so numerous!) now, it’s easy to forget that, at one time in the not-so-distant past, albums full of 4x6s, 5x7s and 10x8s etc… were valued as being amongst people’s most treasured possessions – and the things they would attempt to rescue first in a fire (after the kids and pets of course). And those prints are inevitably of people. The places and events captured in those photographs are secondary or even completely irrelevant. It’s the laughter, smiles and downright goofiness that counts. Photographs – prints – are a wonderful aid to memory and they do mean something to other people. Photographs of the two of you will mean a great deal to the people you leave behind. When you clear away some of your “junk” this month, create a space on a shelf or in a drawer for a box or album of prints. One day, someone will really appreciate it. Xx

    Like

    • disperser says:

      Very few photos of us. Neither of us are big on being “captured”. Perhaps it’s a bit like some of those stories you hear of people in third (or fourth) world countries that have never seen a photograph, and believe a part of themselves has been stolen by the medium.

      We don’t believe that, but still . . . a great reluctance, in both of us, of posing for photos.

      There are a few photos of us floating around. Except for rare instances, it’s someone else taking a picture of us, sometimes without us knowing about it.

      But in our own albums, we seldom appear. We’ve taken photos of ourselves with others, usually for their benefit, but we have never felt the need to document ourselves, our life.

      Other than I take photos of places we’ve been. But those won’t mean anything to anyone.

      And while you are correct photos can trigger wonderful memories, our photos are not of the memories themselves.

      Meaning that, for instance, a photo of a place we have been will trigger our memory of that place, events, meals, walks, things we experienced while there.

      But the photos themselves don’t show any of those things. It is a bit like the photos themselves are detached from our lives. They might as well be postcards (for that’s what they are), and it’s only when we add or own words to the postcard that a part of us gets shared.

      But if we are not there to add the words . . . they are just postcard on a rack. They need someone’s word to bring them to life.

      As for photos being the first thing people save from a fire. I used to think so for us as well (no kids, no pets). But you know what? I could lose all of them right now, and while I might have some regret, it would also be an opportunity to rebuild the collection . . . a collection of plants, animal, bird, and scenery reminders . . . with nary any people in evidence. Not even us.

      It’s no surprise, then, that I have very little interest in genealogy. I know a bit about my past, about people from before I was born, but have never be moved to learn more about them.

      For one thing, I would be learning things second hand, perhaps third or fourth hand. I would not really know the persons. I might learn what they did, but not the why.

      Case in point, some will remember me as a jerk, others might remember me as a nice guy. There will be as many memories of me as people I have met . . . and none of them will be the whole that is me.

      A picture will not help make it so.

      Like

  2. mvschulze says:

    The subject is not one I have not pondered, as aside from our loved ones (which include our dog amongst others,) few if any will care about OUR stuff. But, in retrospect (what an appropriate word here) I have been spending a great deal of time archiving our parents stuff, much still in boxes 10 plus years after their deaths. AND my wife’s father did the same, at least with a large photo/info album of his family tree. We having 2 children and their families adds relevance as well, of course. The scanner has been working overtime in my pastime for several years now, as thousands of old photos, cards, letters, even audio recordings – are being organized and digitalized to join the works of our lives already semi-organized in retrievable form on the computer. Not done yet, would be the provision of these archives on flash drives. (Play it forward media, is up to them!) If anyone cares, stuff will be there, with the passwords for retrieval, and no obligation. M :-)

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    • disperser says:

      Melisa and her sisters have an interest in the genealogy of her family, triggered by the passing of their mother a number of years back.

      My sister is gathering important milestones from our own family’s history into a photo album.

      Myself, there is a full half of my ancestry that I don’t know anything about (the D’Alise name). I’ve never been moved to find out anything about them.

      I don’t know how unique it is, but I don’t have the interest regarding roots as many people seem to have. If I chance upon something, I might look at it, recognize it as a part of my past, but then so many things also contributed to me being here and now.

      People who lived before are sometimes mentioned by either my sister or mother, and even people from when I was very young. I might recognize their names, but if they were not a close part of my life, I don’t know them. Looking at a picture, hearing a snippet, will not aid in me knowing them.

      I might as well make up one of my fictional characters, because it seems to me that is what we do anyway. We take an act, a phrase, something from a person’s life, and we build a persona around that tidbit . . . but it’s a construct, and an imperfect one at that.

      As I say above, even people who deal with me on a fairly frequent basis have at best a vague sketch of me. Only one person knows nearly as much about me as I do (and even I sometimes don’t know all about me). Only one person has been with me for the past 40 years of my journey. Everyone else is just guessing. Perhaps they guess well, but their guesses are tainted by their own lives, and the paths they have traveled.

      It might be different if we had kids . . . they would have shared our lives with us. Perhaps, then, I might feel different about sending a bit of me into the future. But I didn’t, and I don’t. Ultimately, I think I would want them to forge their own lives.

      One interesting side note . . . I’ve made some significant moves in my life. Each time leaving friends, leaving people who may even been a fairly close part of us.

      Each time, even for moderate distances, those connection faded. Promises to write, to call, to “keep in touch”, were just things we said, but did not do. In the earlier moves, it was admittedly more difficult to keep in touch.

      I thought when we left Michigan, with the Internet in full bloom, with e-mail taking very little effort, that at least some of the people I knew, interacted with, worked with, that at least some would keep in touch.

      Within the passing of a year, my e-mails were answered by fewer and fewer people. By year two, I stopped regular e-mails, concentrating only on the holidays. By year three, that mailing list had dropped down from literally a hundred to a mere handful.

      It’s not only distance that is the issue; we were no longer a part of each other’s life.

      It’s different with family, some will say. Perhaps. I can’t say. Families are a tricky business; they can sometimes be strangers, sometimes an active part of our lives, and sometimes just knowing they are there is enough. But, unless one is a close and intimate part of another’s life, the impact of those people dying is more an emotional event, than a real impact in one’s life. Expectations play a part in that, as well.

      I can, with confidence, say that once I am gone, whatever memory anyone has of me will fade pretty quick (unless I once kicked them in the shins). I can say that without regret, without rancor, and without self-pity. I can also say that anyone who wants to remember me, will do so, picture or no picture. In fact, were I capable to do so after I am dead, I would appreciate it more if anyone’s memory of me was kept alive by something other than a 4×6 image. Now, an 8×10 image, that’s something else.

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  3. PiedType says:

    I’ve thought about a lot of these things (people who are 71 do that) and really haven’t done much about it. Photos of people are important (I have maybe half a dozen of my parents and deeply, deeply regret that) but like you, I don’t much like having my picture taken so there won’t be many of me around. I have a lot of keepsakes that are meaningful to me but I’m not sure they will be to anyone else. I have four siblings; some of them might want to keep certain things “in the family.” My son might want some of my stuff; less likely that my two grandkids will, although I suppose that could still change.

    In their later years, my parents started giving some things away to relatives who, I suppose, had expressed an interest. My mom gave her amethyst ring to some distant cousin and that broke my heart. The ring wasn’t particularly valuable, but she’d worn it for decades. It was the one thing of hers that really meant something to me, that said “Mom,” but it was long gone before I thought to ask about it.

    I do have my dad’s medical school ring that he wore his entire life and it probably means more to me than anything else of his that I can think of. Something very special happens when I slip it on my finger.

    Oh well, I have a thing about small keepsakes. I keep meaning to catalog some of my jewelry in case any of it might mean something to someone else — and it case I don’t get a chance to explain it.

    I do worry about my blog. It’s a premium theme with paid customization and no ads upgrade. I don’t know what will happen to it if/when those annual payments stop. But it’s pretty much everything I’ve done for the last ten years. Family, most of whom don’t even know about it, might be interested.

    I’ll shut up now. Been rambling on far too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • disperser says:

      Yup. All valid concerns and comments.

      The blog is an interesting thing for me. Some of my family read it faithfully. others likely never read it.

      I have a few regular readers, but they don’t personally know me (only virtually).

      I imagine that if I look at realistically, no one would really miss it much if it went away tomorrow (except them reading my ongoing novel).

      Like

  4. AnnMarie says:

    One of my greatest treasures is the OneNote notebook of screen clippings of your photos from this blog and the SmugMug galleries. There are images of people (very few), things (more than a few), animals/birds (quite a bit) and the majority are of nature and landscapes. Your photos, and informative narrative, are my virtual passport to places/things that I don’t physically get to visit or see. They are an endless source of creative inspiration and joy. I treasure them as I do you.

    Like

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