Marcus Aurelius, old dead guy: “Lucilla saw Verus die, and then Lucilla died. Secunda saw Maximus die, and then Secunda died. Epitynchanus saw Diotimus die, and Epitynchanus died. Antoninus saw Faustina die, and then Antoninus died. Such is everything. Celer saw Hadrian die, and then Celer died. And those sharp-witted men, either seers or men inflated with pride, where are they? For instance the sharp-witted men, Charax and Demetrius the Platonist and Eudaemon, and any one else like them. All ephemeral, dead long ago. Some indeed have not been remembered even for a short time, and others have become the heroes of fables, and again others have disappeared even from fables. Remember this then, that this little compound, thyself, must either be dissolved, or thy poor breath must be extinguished, or be removed and placed elsewhere. […] Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”
At five p.m. today the wife called and told me that Dr. Justin Weiss was gone. The family was all there, in room 2222. During my vigil, Papa’s brows were knotted through the wee hours into the morning light, but today his white face was smooth and calm. Sandy passed around shots of Maker’s Mark and joshed with us. I understood; it was what he would have wanted. The family talked and cried and laughed and talked. I touched his hand and his forehead and wished him a good journey to whatever hereafter is his destiny.
Both of my wife’s grandfathers died within the same week.
We don’t have to resort to souls to exist beyond death. Those who have died influence the living through our collective memories. We remember what they said and wrote and did, and those memories influence our current life choices. We read the completed lives of the dead, and we, the living, grow and change. Memory is life.
These are the essences of immortality and of souls, as I perceive them.
So here, then, is the continued life that I grant Papa:
From Papa I learned to take personal embarrassment as a source of amusement. From him I learned that poker is a good way to kill time with other men. From him I learned that it is OK to go to a shrink even if you are mentally healthy.
From Papa I learned that it is best to e-mail dirty jokes to as many people as possible.
From Papa I learned that your relationship with your parents determines much of your psychosocial lot in life. From Papa I learned that alcohol can be fun. From Papa I learned not to brag about academic accomplishments, and to be on good terms with as many people as possible, and to live a life of indulgence to the greater purpose of joy and not to self-destruction.