changing how we think of death
Celebrating death was still new for some people; the some-odd 500,000 that still hadn’t died from the previous generation. We call that generation the “sulkers,” since they had no idea how to grapple with their paralysis around mortality —always defending themselves from it — the thought alone made them shutter. And although it was the recognized end goal, everyone still died a little themselves when they lost a loved one.
It took an entire movement, a straight up intellectual revolution, for people to start understanding the beauty of it. Of course, philosophers and artists had been metaphorizing death for centuries, but that was categorized as art, not practice. Once the first company, originally titled “FUNerals,” then appropriately rebranded to “Afterlife Affairs,” started throwing parties for the deceased, the traditional funeral went out the window. Unsurprisingly, religious families were strict about adjusting their methods, but eventually enough bible verses were collected in order to justify the celebration, such as, “the day of death better than the day of birth, Ecclesiastes 7:1” and “we would rather be away from the body and home with the Lord, 2nd Corinthians 5:8–9.”
There was, without question, something organically wonderful about a sudden death. It almost felt like a summoning. Like God was having a dinner party and had 1 extra seat. He would think “ah, how embarrassing,” then yank an unsuspecting guest from Earth. But taking your own life would be like showing up to God’s dinner party uninvited… unexpected… like that awful uncle who conveniently got off parole right before Thanksgiving.
Inevitably, the act of dying itself became sort of commercialized. People always told stories at the death party about how awesome the last month had been for the deceased. And if it hadn’t been, the attendees would usually make something up, or exaggerate ordinary moments like “Debby got all green lights the day of her death” or “Mike arrived to work on time,” (as if punctuality was exceptional). There was always someone on the news that died right after she won the lottery… or died during a massage, and they were like death celebrities. There’s no doubt that competition arose, even if no one called it that. You could always spot the fakes, the ones that planned their own elaborately beautiful departure. Usually people like that didn’t even receive an opportunity for an Afterlife Affair, because of how tacky it was to take away from the spontaneity of death.
The celebrations themselves were kind of like the ultimate birthday; guest lists that you were prompted to write on your 15th birthday, playlists you were to have already sculpted. Children were instructed on how to compile these party plans. A neat list. No discrepancies, since questions couldn’t be asked the day of the event. Some people had everything recorded, down to the number of pickles on each chicken slider. Others, unfortunately, thought the entire soirée was madness. Like wearing a sundress during a storm, it just seemed silly, the wind would probably blow it in every-which direction and you’d be cold — it’s just not logical.
Yet for Rachel, it was all she thought about. She spent hours on her hair every morning, just in case “today was the big day.” So when pictures of her deceased body started to surface.. no one was surprised at her perfectly curled hair, lying almost strategically around her still-glowing face. Some witnesses even testified that they saw her smiling during impact, like she knew this was her time to shine.
Of course, expected deaths were a little different. It was like the countdown before the ball dropped on New Years Eve. It was typical for people to even hold grudges against those who were suddenly doused with cancer — or those who, for whatever reason, knew they were going to die in the near future. Exiting Earth was to be envied, allowing man to finally accept the supposed “impending doom” instead of constantly running from it.