Birthdays, Deathdays, and Language
There’s a common procedure at funerals to talk about the deceased’s life, and the ways in which the deceased changed the lives of others. People will give these kind of speeches, or write these kind of social media posts.
Sometimes I hear these speeches and I think, these are some of the kindest words I’ve ever heard about a person. If they were alive, they would feel pretty damn special and loved.
Another feature of these types of speeches is that the speaker expresses regret for not having said this to their friend or family members when they were still alive. Sometimes the regret is palpable.
Clearly, a lot of thought went into the words chosen for these tributes. More than usual it’s because we want to tie a beautiful knot on a person’s life.
But what about birthdays, when our friends a and family are still alive and celebrating? What do we say about them then?
HBD! Hope your birthday is great.
It’s Jimmy’s birthday today, he is the best!
It’s almost as if on birthdays, when our loved ones still exist, we do the opposite of funeral tributes; we put very little thought and care into our words celebrating them.
Because those words at a funeral are for us. To see someone as the best possible person, to look at their flaws as gifts, to feel grateful that they stopped by on this crazy journey of life. It’s language used to mourn and grieve. It helps us.
But on a birthday, when they are still alive, the words are for them. And that’s harder because it is so hard for people to be vulnerable and say how they feel to people that are alive.
Have you ever had someone gush about you with very well crafted language? It can be as awkward as it is sweet. But in death, when it’s one sided, it’s somehow not only easier but natural to do this.
I propose that we think about how we use that type of language to comfort ourselves when we are grieving and use it to lift our friends and family up when they are still alive.
Write like they aren’t there anymore. Tell them about the immense value they bring to the universe. Tell them before it becomes about you, and your grief.
Miss them before they’ve left.