Death: not a good subject to joke about

It’s hard to joke about death, much like it’s difficult to joke about rape. The difference is you can’t lay back and enjoy death, and even if you do, you can only enjoy it once. Why can’t we joke about death? I can understand if it’s a tragic death involving a young teen. I’m not that brutal to realize there is a time and a place for lewd puns. I’m simply talking about extremely old individuals who have lived satisfying and complete lives and peacefully kick the bucket.

Having said that, let’s talk about Strom Thurmond. I’m not ashamed to admit I laughed when I heard ol’ Strom passed away at the ripe old age of 100. After all, Strom Thurmond has long been a staple in stand-up and late-night comedy for being the oldest senator in Congress. In fact, that’s pretty much his claim to fame, at least to my fellow college students. To be honest, I don’t exactly know what he’s accomplished in his life except that the majority of his political tenure occurred before I was even a sperm cell. The extent of my Strom Thurmond knowledge does not extend beyond a presidential candidacy in the 40’s or 50’s, and his 100th birthday party where Trent Lott accidentally made some racial remarks and caused uproar amongst everybody except African-Americans.

What reason did Strom have to live any longer? Was he attempting to break the world record for oldest human being? Fat chance, as some African lady will always claim to be 118 years old. This is a man who already surpassed the Willard Scott birthday milestone and was under age during Prohibition.

St. Peter had him on speed dial. Not only that, but the politicians Strom Thurmond consistently beat in the elections for Senator of whichever state he resided are mourning on the outside and leaping in the air while clicking their heels on the inside.

Besides, we are living a double standard when it comes to the non-living. When a decrepit public icon of yesteryear peacefully moves on to the afterlife, we are supposed to put our flags at half-mast and pay homage to a man or woman whose quality of life had been deteriorating for decades.

However, when a serial murderer or terrorist gets shot with lethal toxins, his legacy makes the rounds in Jay Leno’s monologue. Nobody was ever scolded if they asked whether or not Timothy McVeigh was a twitcher, but if Ronald Reagan were to die tomorrow, one could get severely spanked for pointing out he is no longer a twitcher himself.

My guess is all of this stems from our fear of death. This may sound like textbook Dan Quayle wisdom, but people are afraid of dying because they will no longer be alive. Once a person dies and their soul ascends to Heaven, descends to Hell, or laterals to purgatory, it is a formality to be remembered well by your loved ones. Why? So the mourners can grieve a little easier. Acting proper around a corpse isn’t for the corpse – it’s for the family. Shooting spitwads into the open casket does not hurt the cadaver as much as it makes the widow cry. The dead person won’t be offended by right-on-the-money critiques of his or her past life, because their soul is on another plane of existence!

I hereby open the floodgates for murmurs over my own death, hopefully in at least 50 years. When I pass on, most likely not by my choice and instead by an angry reader’s, I’m not all that worried about what my friends and family say about me. My future children can speak of me as a good father or a bad singer. My friends can reminisce about the time I was 35 and was caught by the police fondling our 17-year old babysitter. They can discuss how I was overcritical of everyone. I don’t mind if they let their frustration out on how I would not get drunk with them. I was who I was.

Of course, this probably won’t happen if I were to die tomorrow, but if I turn remotely famous and live to be 100, chances are I will be the laughing stock of “The Onion” readers, and when I expire, they will chuckle under their breaths and move on with their lives.