They say that there’s two unavoidable things in this world; Death and taxes. But that’s not really true.
Taxes have become an international joke, huge multi-million pound firms that don’t pay, or squirrel it away to avoid earning enough, according to their records, to pay any tax beyond any meagre offerings. The irony of being rich is that once you’re rich, it’s very easy to stay rich, but getting rich in the first place? Yeah, unless you have a rich relative who likes you and hates the rest of your family, give up, now. Sorry and all. Or you could hope to get lucky in the stock market or something.
The late, great Sir Terry Pratchett, gods rest him, once wrote of The Vimes’ Boot Theory of Socioeconomics. A rich man will buy one pair of boots a year for $100, but a poor man will buy 12 pairs of boots a year for $10 each, at the end of the year, the rich mans boots will still be good, but the poor man will have wet feet and a bigger bill. The unfairness of society reckoned out via boots. And that is the perfect explanation of society and how it works for those with cash and those without.
The funny thing is, while a poor man will, generally, follow the rules and pay his taxes and scrape a tiny profit together in the hopes of retiring before he dies, and maybe having enough money to buy bargain noodles without having to beg food banks before he freezes in winter. Meanwhile, a rich man will hide his money, the rich man will stay rich by not spending any money, he will have the lawyers and schemes that can hide his money and keep him rich. Thus, he can be the one who owns the poor mans care home and retire knowing that his residents are abused and beaten, laying in their own shit all day. But that’s ok, because he can just go to his private villa and know that it will never happen to him.
But, the thing that is true, and unavoidable, is the final moment. Death. Death happens to all of us, whether it’s early or late, planned or a surprise, gentle or violent, it happens. And I am one of the people who cares for some of those who have suddenly realised that living is a terminal condition. We die. It happens, it sucks for those left behind, but it happens. And I’ve noticed there are some really crappy things people do to funeral corteges, things that they think is ok.
I need to tell you, or I may jump out of the next hearse I’m in and batter someone.
When you see a hearse go by, with ‘passenger’ or without, it doesn’t hurt to have a bit of respect. Nod your head, salute if you like. If that hearse contains a coffin, that means, for those of you without a clue, that it is going to a funeral. The passenger is dead. That is an ex-person. That person used to be like you: They walked, talked, shopped, struggled to live and provide for their family, they laughed, cried and unwrapped Christmas presents under a tree. They celebrated birthdays and looked forward to weekends, a chance to imagine what sort of life they’d have if they won the lottery. Would they buy a private island? Build their dream home? Go on holiday? Pay debts? Leave work and pursue their dreams of writing, painting or rare guinea-pig breeding? Who knows, and now they’ll never tell anyone, they’re dead. And I’m sick to the back teeth of seeing people pull out in front of the hearse, of them sitting behind us and beeping and screaming past on quiet roads.
It doesn’t take much to have a little respect, you’ll be in one of those vehicles some day. And I hope beyond hope that you have flowers, and people crying, sharing stories, trying to picture a life without you in their lives and struggling. I hope you’re not alone. I hope you get an undertaker that cares as much as my company does. I will say, I have seen some beautiful things. People, not much older than me, cross their chest, nod their heads, salute or even blow a kiss. I know it’s probably a generational thing, but it does us proud to see respect for the dead. And it is nice to see, seriously, just a little respect for those departed.
Certainly those people who don’t nod, cross or salute, I know they’d probably never even think about jumping on graves, breaking headstones or digging up graves. They’re probably not monsters. Just remember, please, I’m begging you, a hearse is the last drive a person will ever go on. Is it really that difficult to nod, throw a little salute, or even, gods forbid, take your hat off.
Deep down I think people are a little scared of acknowledging the dead or the presence of Death, just in case it draws Deaths attention, just in case it makes him look closer at his timers and lists and realise he’s late for your collection.
It probably won’t, but don’t quote me. Oh, and pay your taxes!