Monday, December 01, 2003


Whenever someone dies, especially someone young, the newspaper is full of quotes about a promising life cut short. The young man who died was the best kid ever, always smiling, always kind to his grandmother. The young woman who died had a brilliant future, volunteered at the local hospital, was going to be a doctor. And so on. Tons of quotes about these wonderful people, and how the world is a worse place for having lost them.

Mostly this seems to be the case, but sometimes I wonder what people are really thinking when they hear that their classmate/co-worker/cousin/whoever has died. Does everyone always think it's a terrible thing? I don't think so.

When I was in 8th grade, a kid in my school died in a very awful accident. I really didn't like this boy, and although he probably would have grown up into a decent human being, he was mean and awful when we were 13. When I heard he died, the first thing I thought was, "Good!" And then I burst into tears because I felt so guilty for not feeling bad. I was sick the rest of the day because everyone thought I was crying because I missed him, when I was really crying out of guilt and relief.

So, I've been thinking about this for a long time, and a story in today's paper finally prompted me to mention it to Catherine. Turns out she has a similar story. Once upon a time, a kid in her high school died, and she thought it was kind of a relief sincehe was the kind of kid who went around and shot people's cats for fun. You feel bad in a general sense, and definitely I felt sad for P.J.'s parents, but at the same time, it's hard to stifle your initial emotional response.

I don't know. I wouldn't have made a very good humanist, because it turns out I don't value the human life all that much. Well, I value specific lives, but not life in general, and definitely not my own. I do hope when I die some people say, "That's too bad, eh?" but I'm guessing the mourning contigent will be balanced by people secretly thinking, "Thank god," and maybe that's okay.

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