I grow weary of people speaking of the recently departed as flawless, sinless individuals despite the life the person actually lived. There’s this fear of speaking ill of the dead that stays around for months and even years after the burial. Why is this? By “ill”, I’m not talking about slander and falsity. Usually, an honest recollection of the not-so-great things the person did is considered ill-speak as well.
I realize that God forgives and doesn’t focus on our sins after we’ve repented of them. We don’t know what’s going on outside of time and space with the departed, thus it’s possible that they’ve repented all their sins, and we surely know that God is prepared to forgive them ahead of time no matter what the atrocity.
If a human being purposefully lives life in a certain fashion, and, while alive, is known to behave a certain way and have a certain lifestyle, why do all our memories change simply because the person dies? They still lived the life they lived and acted the way they acted. Sure, it feels natural to suddenly change our opinions of the person simply because they’ve passed on, but do you ever stop and think why? Is it because we feel sorry for them because they’re dead or something?
A good example is Princess Diana. People are still talking about her like she was a saint. Funny, I don’t remember anyone saying that about her while she was alive, and I doubt, by the way that she chose to live, that she was a blameless individual. Other examples off the top of my head are Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, Elvis, Sinatra, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman. These people were by no means saints, but we trick ourselves into thinking they were because they’re dead, or, especially in Hartman’s case, because of how they died.
I bring this up because of an article I read, written for Fox Sports News by Jason Whitlock, regarding Redskins safety Sean Taylor’s recent murder. The article discusses some of the controversy regarding his death:
Within hours of his death, there was a story circulating that members of the black press were complaining that news outlets were disrespecting Taylor’s victimhood by reporting on his troubled past.
No disrespect to Taylor, but he controlled the way he would be remembered by the way he lived. His immature, undisciplined behavior with his employer, his run-ins with law enforcement, which included allegedly threatening a man with a loaded gun, and the fact a vehicle he owned was once sprayed with bullets are all pertinent details when you’ve been murdered.
Taylor has indeed had a troubled past and chose to be involved in a certain way of life. Yet the media wants us to disregard all of that and treat Taylor as purely a victim who had no influence on his life’s circumstances.
I’m not saying we need to scrutinize the things this young man did in his life. I’m just tired of society telling me that death is the only prerequisite to being canonized. Why would we talk about someone in a certain way while they’re alive, and not say the same things after they’re dead? It’s still the same person, and just because their body is dead doesn’t mean they’re not alive in a different way somewhere else.
It either tells me that we need to stop talking the way we talk about the living, or change how we regard the precious departed. I’d wager it’s a mix of both.