No Tears for Death
by Kenneth Nichols
When you’re young, there’s always a wedding coming up. When you’re old, there’s always a funeral. I’ve attended a lot of funerals, seeing that I’m now 96 years old. I’ll probably be around for a couple hundred more.
I’m old enough to remember the way funerals used to go. Anyone under sixty wouldn’t understand. The weeping relatives in dark clothes, parading about an otherwise bright graveyard, some people bearing flowers dappled with teardrops instead of dew. A clergyman or brave relative would say a few words, and the casket would drop into the ground, and reality would set in for most: the person was gone forever. Loves, hopes, dreams cast to the winds of whatever afterlife you happen to favor.
No longer. I don’t know why they even have them any more. Now, it’s a joyous occasion indeed. Solemn music playing, the body displayed under thick glass. After the similarly semi-solemn vid-retrospective of their first life, another slider conceals how they vaporize the body. It’s much more hygienic that way, of course.
I’ve been through this myself. How many people in human history can say they knew what it felt like to be the guest of honor at their own funeral? Not many, but it’s an irresistible necessity now.
Yeah, all these friends and family patting me on the back, most of them on their first lives. They shake my hand, the women kiss me on the cheek in condolence. They know, but don’t realize that Shirley will be at home waiting for us, for me. Knowing her, she’ll insist on cooking for her own Rebirth Dinner.
That’s not to say that it was easy to watch her die. Her body, once so plump (pleasingly so) and full, had atrophied to the point where no one else could recognize her. They told me it was cancer of some kind, I didn’t listen. I just pressed my thumb to the money pad and they knew what I wanted.
It doesn’t hurt at all when they flash your brain. The pain I was suffering from the renal failure was a supernova compared to the flash’s pinprick star. In that instant, neurons and their impulses were captured, printed onto the new brain to go into the new body.
Even knowing she would be back, it was so hard. She whispered my name, spoke of our happy times, love we shared, memories that would never die. Her life passed from her with a breath, as if her soul was escaping with that last gasp. I didn’t cry when I closed her eyes with my palm, and they took her body away.
It was sad, but it will be over soon. How would the tears help any?
She had opted to come back in a body just the same as the one she left. It would have been her choice, even if I hadn’t gone first. When you’re young, a healthy, spry body is perfect. Lust forces you to couple as often as possible, and stamina is a must. With age, the coupling is even sweeter, though less frequent, and the energy sacrifice is replaced with an exchange of love. Neither of us could live without this.
I was the only one standing. Everyone else sat and cried, fingering the Rebirth cards they had been given. If you remember funeral cards, they would picture the Virgin, or someone similarly holy, and on the reverse was inscribed a verse to console those in loss, and remind them that the loved one had gone to a better place. There is a different kind of verse on the Rebirth cards. SHIRLEY H. EATON BORN 2003: “And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him” Luke 8:40.
We were all there waiting for him. Rebirth is just like a second coming. You can’t convince me that I’m not myself as some would have you believe. They tuned up my new body, but every time it rains my right knee locks up something awful. I’m glad Shirley didn’t have to walk through the barricade of protesters as you enter the home. It drained her so much the last time.
Well, the final eulogy is done. My son did a wonderful job, but damned if he didn’t cry. I didn’t cry. As you can see, my mind’s wandering like nobody’s business.
I got it together when I heard my name whispered from behind me. “Mr. Eaton?”
It was the head of the home. The pale, morbid look of the mortician had been replaced with the rodent look of a geek. I told him who I was.
“Sir, there’s been a bit of a problem.”
“She’ll be delayed a little, huh?” I said. “Good. She won’t have the chance to fight to cook supper.”
Then the geek looked into my eyes and I felt the way I did when Shirley was diagnosed with the cancer.
“No, sir. When we flashed your wife, the data went into our computer. Before the system automatically backed itself up, we had a power failure. Outside, the protesters cut the lines. Our generator didn’t pick up.”
“What are you saying?”
The geek paused. He was considering my reaction. “She’s gone, sir. We can’t bring her back.”
The family finished singing the hymn... I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
As they finished, the mechanical whirring began, and the shield dropped over Shirley’s body. I could hear the power coursing through... the electricity was working now. I couldn’t see — in an instant, she was gone.
That is when the tears began. Lord, how they came. My family passed me, clapped me on the back, and assured me. They teased me with the Rebirth dinner they didn’t know would never be.
The geek left me, and I was alone. An old, rickety man in a body that would live forever.
Copyright © 2005 by Kenneth Nichols