How To Live With Dead People
I can see this as something of a series, actually -- dead people being in not particularly short supply. Each entry in the series would offer helpful tips on how to live with various sorts of dead people.
For example, the skills required for living with a person who died after a long illness are likely different from those you'd want for living with a person who died unexpectedly. Likewise, living with a dead young person would be different from living with a dead Senior Citizen. And so forth. I don't know where we are at last count in terms of dead people, but my guess is the number is impressive. There could be a lot of work for somebody in this.
To begin, I will confront the difficulties of living with a dead person who died unexpectedly. Later I may have the opportunity to address issues involving other sorts of dead people. In fact, I feel almost sure of it. Unless, of course, I'm the next person to die, in which case someone else will have to carry on.
Step #1: Unexpecting your new friend.
This is often the most difficult step to master because unexpected deaths are unexpected and most people aren't very good with surprises. Generally, an unexpected death will be just about the last thing you would ever have been expecting just before the email or phone call arrives telling you that the dead person has unexpectedly died. Most people just aren't very flexible about this sort of thing.
For example, an email might arrive in your Inbox with nothing more than a friend's name in the subject line. You might find yourself staring at the Inbox, hoping to christ almighty on a god damned crutch that this email is going to be about a surprise birthday party for your friend. Don't be alarmed if a few seconds have to pass before you can actually bring yourself to open the email. After all, you know it isn't anywhere near his birthday, and though there is still a chance that the email might concern some delightful and harmless bit of gossip about your friend, you have a pain in your tummy telling you, no, things aren't going to be that easy.
Here, we shall pass over the moment when you allow yourself to actually see the words that carry the news. Here, most guides like this one will simply insert the words "something ghastly happens" and then move on, and so we will adopt that convention as well. There are, after all, no reliable reports of what this moment is really like.
Now you'll find yourself in a twilight place. You've become a sudden and involuntary convert to a religion that can only exist in Bizarro World. You know the thing is true, but you don't believe it. This is unfaith. Don't be alarmed. This moment will not last.
Step #2: Getting ready for the dead person to move in.
Moving in is always a chore and this is especially true when the person you are helping to move in is a dead person. One helpful thing to try, just after learning that a dead person will be moving in with you, is to stand up and look around at the room you will be sharing with the dead person. You will immediately notice how all pieces of furniture have moved themselves into the wrong places. This is much like boxing up your things when you, yourself, are preparing to move, only in this case all the prep work has already been done more or less miraculously for you. The shock may cause you to sit down again.
Step #3: Preparing for that first meeting.
For most of us, meeting new people -- especially dead people -- can be hard. Very few of us are as skilled socially as we would like to be. Here are a few tips.
Often those people who knew the dead person before he was a dead person will organize a gathering of some sort, formal or informal, it doesn't matter, at which they can all say hello to the dead person. Naturally, there is some awkwardness involved in meeting the newly dead, but this can be reduced if you do a little planning ahead. Write out your thoughts about what you might want to say to the dead person when you first meet him. Try writing as if you were going to say what you have to say on television to a nationwide viewing audience. This will make you sound like an asshole. Nobody wants to sit there and listen to you make up crap about somebody so you can please the people at home. Get an effing clue, why don't you?
After you have carefully written out what you want to say, read it several times aloud to yourself, alone in a room or before a mirror. Soon you will begin to see what a hopelessly brain dead and soulless piece of crap you've written. With any luck, you will get all of this out of your system before the gathering occurs.
Do not throw the piece of paper away, however. Keep it with you, tucked away. If your nerves fail you at the crucial moment, you can always fall back on your prepared remarks. You will still look like an asshole, but most people will forgive you. Knowing that you have something to say when the big moment arrives will help calm your nerves. In these situations, it is always better to look like an asshole than to be a coward.
Step #4: The big moment.
Now you are ready to step up to the plate and take your cuts!
Don't be shy. You have prepared a little something to say. Nothing to worry about. And don't forget that the dead person is probably just as nervous as you are.
As you walk to the podium to say hello to your new dead friend, consider this: you didn't ask for this, you didn't want it, you would never have wanted it in a million years, but it's what you've been handed, bub, so do your best.
In fact, why not embrace the moment with all your heart? If a job is worth doing -- even if it's a job that makes you feel like you want to dig your eyeballs out with an oyster fork and then start in with it on your adenoids -- then it's a job worth doing right.
Eject preparation. Say whatever the hell you want. Your new dead friend will admire your spontaneity. Say that you love him, because you did. Say that you miss him, because you will. Tell him something funny about himself, because he made you laugh so many times, for so many years. Tell him he's a pain in the ass, because he was. But remind him that he's worth it, too, because he always was, even when you couldn't believe you could ever get over being so angry at him that you never wanted to see him again.
Soon, before you know it, the bloom will be on the rose of your brand new friendship with this dead person. Just, you know, don't get used to that feeling. Don't think for a moment that your job is done.
Like any living situation, there will always be difficulties. Unappreciated twists, unanticipated turns. You will have to make compromises with the dead person as he wends his way deeper and deeper into your life. This is natural in any relationship that will last you to the end of your days. As the years pass, you may grow as comfortable with each other as an old married couple sitting on the porch, gazing up at the moonlit sky together, holding hands and quietly longing, each of them, for their separate deaths.
But all that's in the future.
Step #5: The courtship.
Welcome back to Bizarro World!
Here, you begin courting your dead friend by not going to any movies because you used to go to movies with him. Here, you won't rent a DVD because you used to do that with him as well, and then sit around discussing what you watched together. Here, you won't go out for a late-night bite to eat at the cheapo diner because that's what the two of you used to do. Welcome to Bizarro Dating!
But never fear. As you grow closer, more intimate with your dead friend, you will start going to movies again. And renting DVDs. And going to the Odessa Diner. In fact, you'll go back to doing lots of stuff together, you and your dead friend. Soon, you won't be able to ever be without him. You'll go everywhere, do everything, just like the old days. Only you'll be alive and he'll be dead, of course.
Which isn't quite the same, I guess, but it's kind of all you have to work with.
Step #6: In conclusion.
Okay, it's probably better if your friends don't die on you. Especially all of a sudden. But like I said, you sort of have to work with what you've got.
Good luck. You can do it. If I can, you can.