hate to break it to you, but you’re going to die. That’s okay. I am too. Don’t panic. It probably won’t be today or tomorrow. But, eventually, we’re going to cast off this mortal coil and cease to exist in the here and now. Spoiler alert, right?
Nearly everyone who has lived on this planet has done this. In fact, only a few billion people have yet to try it. But it is estimated that just over 100 billion folks have gone before us to the hereafter.
Some are lucky enough to be remembered by family and loved ones. Others pass off without anyone blinking so much as an eye. The question of nearly everyone who thinks about death has to be “I wonder if I’ll be remembered?” Obviously, some are better positioned than others to be remembered even more than one generation later. An even smaller percentage is remembered for two or more generations. And the smallest of the small numbers are remembered in perpetuity through a monument or a statue.
There are a lot of ways to remember those in the past.
I think about my Uncle John when I think about death. My Uncle John was my dad’s brother-in-law and we’d go up to his house when we were kids. He lived in Lincoln, Nebraska and we’d spend time playing hide and seek with my cousins in his attic. Sometimes he would creep up the stairs and make scary ghost sounds. Uncle John passed away several years ago. He battled Alzheimer’s so he was gone long before his body was. I remember my Uncle John. My cousins remember Uncle John and I sincerely hope that their kids hear ghost stories that my Uncle John would tell.
My wife is a keen scrapbooker. She has an encyclopedia of our entire life together – all 22 volumes – each with a summary of vacations and holidays and baseball games. She takes a week off once a year to work on them along with countless other weekends and stolen hours here and there. This is one helluva way to make sure you’ll be remembered.
Making a statue of someone is probably the boldest way to make sure someone will be remembered. A statue normally comes with a plaque that lists out that person’s accomplishments. Sometimes, English teachers would assign writing out your own statue plaque for extra credit now and again. I can’t imagine the honor of knowing that your likeness would fill up a courtyard or stand in front of a law library for as long as bronze statues can stand. I’d assume there is pride involved. Likely a little ego. And don’t forget the dread.
Dread? Sure. Let’s say I was a slave owner, but I did really well commanding troops in war. Or, maybe the war was to secure the rights to own slaves. But that’s not the important part. The important part is the way I commanded my troops in war. A war that I lost, sure. But it was the way that I lost it that was so honorable – if you ignore the treason. But I assume that I would be proud someone felt the urge to make my likeness into a statue forever.
There is no bolder choice than to literally erect someone upon a pedestal until time and the elements decides when you should be forgotten. It also challenges the curiosity and interest of future generations. Those generations are excited to learn about how ably you commanded your troops in war – after the treason – and so that others could continue to own slaves – but hey, look, it says Captain Johnny Warmonger managed to make it five years before his side lost.
Making sure to remember those who have fallen before us is a task we should all take up. But for those we choose to put on pedestals, we should remember all of it and then choose whether to keep you up there. Being on the losing side of a treasonous war in which your side chose so they could literally devalue human life doesn’t sound like the best reason to raise you up forever.
Give me a statue of Uncle John perched behind the stairs howling like a ghost. I’m sure my wife has a picture of him somewhere in her scrapbooks. When we’re all gone, I think those that come after would learn more from him than some slave trading general.
(Someday there might be a statue of Chris Kamler on Twitter, where he is known as @TheFakeNed)