.. . . is firstly that we begin to smell. Nothing new there, you might think, since under-arm deodorants are still a long way off in 2008 BC or ANE (avant notre ère) but where nos amis, les animaux are concerned – then it becomes a matter for public concern. It’s no good just leaving us out on the patio, to be dealt with later – the pong will attract our four-legged friends, and those with more fur and sharper teeth. We don’t mind hunting them (after a healthy vegan/fruitarian week) but they shouldn’t be encouraged to hang around the encampment, snacking on our grandchildren.
Another problem about being dead is that we lose our looks. The jolly wrinkled smiles of us grandparents turn quickly into parchment-yellow grimaces – which impacts on our nearest and dearest and may give rise to dedicated help-lines, and an entire mission-focussed social sevice department one day. So ok there are that lot across the waters we’ve heard about who like to have their grandpappys and granmas propped up at the table every evening, but really – haven’t we all done our stint of child-minding, when you young parents head off to the camp-fire disco? Surely we’ve earned our rest. We’d like you all to remember us at our least-worst, surely?
Then there’s the restlessness. You’re tired of all that getting up in the middle of the night for a piss, or a cup of hot-chocolate. You need to think that when we’re gone – we’re gone for good. You don’t really want us wandering back . . . in the dead of night . . . looking for something to snack on. Now I have no problem with revenants dining out on the living (well that fat lot down the valley are just asking for it, aren’t they?) – and kosher or halal doesn’t come into it – rather it’s just bad form to go eating your own. It’s simply not the way a modern-thinking clan behaves, always looking over its shoulder at the way its recent-dead might carry on.
And another problem with the dead is our memory. Well – we may not have been the sharpest flints in the tribe, those last few years (it’s one thing to forget your spectacles – but to forget that spectacles haven’t even been invented yet . . . ) – but who knows how long the dead bear grudges? There’s time enough, when you’ve got eternity to measure against, to wait for a good moment to settle a score or two.
So what’s to do with us smelly old unappealing vindictive restless dead? Well – you could try putting me under the soil – but unless you’ve suddenly got the hang of this new-fangled ‘agriculture’ and can hang onto your top-soil for more than a couple of years- then you’re going to be seeing me sooner than you thought. And if you’re thinking of getting rid of me completely with that old ‘air-burial’ trick – I won’t have it! The birds and beasts would cart me off wholesale – and where’s the respect for your ancestors in that?
No. What we’d like is a proper funeral, under a decent-sized stone (big enough to keep us in and the fanged-ones out, and just bigger than them-next-door, if you can afford it . . .) and with a bit of a knees-up. It livens up those dull winter days, when that new-fangled ‘harvest’ of yours is ‘in’, and you can’t be arsed to go hunting because ‘it’s too cold’ or ‘I’ll trade something in for it’ – Oh no – we didn’t have it so easy in our day, you know . . .
So what do we do with our dead? Will it be inhumation, or cremation? The jury is still out, the dead are still muttering, and I haven’t made my mind up yet.