A Friendly Reminder About Death

Lately I have been thinking a lot about death. The triggering event, appropriately, involved cigarettes; the store in which I attempted to procure a new pack only had my brand in soft pack. I mean, yes, I could have gotten 100s, but I always feel like I am done smoking 100s before the cigarette itself is finished and then there’s that awkward moment where you stand there self-consciously smoking a cigarette in which you are no longer interested and the cigarette itself feels bad because it’s not its fault that they made it longer than the normal cigarette and what kind of cigarette wants to be smoked by someone who is ambivalent at best about finishing it anyway? Also it knows that soon it will be thrust to the ground and stepped on to be extinguished forever. It’s a nasty, brutal and short life for a cigarette, even a long one. But I digress.

So, desperate as I was to get that delicious smoke into my lungs, I said yes to the soft pack option. If you have ever done something similar, you know how it turned out. The cigarettes were difficult to retrieve from the stupid slot you make at the top, and, as the day wore on the pack took more and more of a pounding so by the time I got around to addressing the few remaining smokes they were in terrible condition: bent, frazzled and in one case actually torn to the point where I had to remove the filter entirely and smoke it the other way around, which is largely unsatisfying and makes you look like some kind of low-level thug, a particularly unattractive appearance for a man who is approaching forty with astonishing celerity.

So I was standing on the street, smoking my improvised unfiltered cigarette in a state of extreme disgruntlement, complaining to myself about the unfairness of it all. Why, I moaned internally, do they even MAKE soft packs? Why not stick with the beauty of the box, a thing in which form and function effortlessly combine? Then I recalled an explanation from decades previous, in which a friend, posing the same question to the proprietor of a local smoke shop, was informed that soft packs are preferred by those who regularly wear suits, the lines of which are apparently unable to overcome the sharp angles of the box.

Now, I am not the type of person, thank God, who needs to wear a suit — most days, my attire consists of jeans and whatever was once hot at The Gap but made its inevitable migration to the bottom floor where all the sad sale items come to live out the end of their retail careers — but I do own one. And this mental disquisition on the state of the soft pack put me in mind of my own suit, about which this terrible thought flashed through my mind: From now on this suit will see many more funerals than weddings. It is just a fact of life. More people I know will die than get married going forward. The final funeral, I thought to myself, will be my own, but then I remembered that I have left specific instructions that when I pass on my body is to be burned and the resulting dust blasted into space so there are no earthly remains with which to trouble nature by reminding it of my existence.

Death itself is not at all worrisome to me; it’s the sad deaccumlation of details that lead up to the process that I find so troubling. With each funeral to which I wear that suit I am losing one more person in my life, one more friend or relative who remembered me when I was younger and more enthusiastic about things. As we age, we grow dull and fearful, resentful of the vibrance of the generations which succeed us. Having once been of the up-and-coming generation it is a terrible thing to know that your time has passed, that those younger than you now look upon you as a cautionary tale at best and a grim reminder of their own mortality at worst. They mock you for your inability to understand and appreciate the things that come as second nature to them.

Take, for example, this video of someone’s grandfather listening to Skrillex. If you are like me, you have no idea what Skrillex is, and even the explanations provided by the kids today offer no succor. In days past I would have laughed at this grandpa, his angry bafflement at the sounds of the new. But now I can only weep, for I know that I am that grandpa. Maybe not yet exactly, but soon. I can only clench my fists in rage to realize that where once I would have been the young man playing the music, it is not long before I will be the old man reacting to it with distaste. The only redeeming thing I can think about it is that, no matter how young you are now, someday so will you. We are all that grandpa. It’s just a question of how much time it’s going to take us to get there. I suppose death, when it finally comes, will be something of a relief.

Anyway, soft packs really suck is what I was trying to say. I am not making that mistake again.