On Death and Dying

I’ve probably thought more about death in the past year than I ever have in any other, and I’m not really sure why. Part of the reason may be because we discussed death in my intro to philosophy class over the summer. Part of it may be because I'm hoping that thinking about it will make it easier for me to accept that one day I will no longer exist. And part of it may be because I’ve been seeing signs of my friends and family getting older. My mom, for instance, has been experiencing pain in her leg and knee, which has been making it difficult for her to take steps.

It's been 3 years since my grandma's death and I think I'm starting to get used to not having her around. The house continues to feel quiet and empty, though. It's hard to believe that there used to be 7 people living here. I remember the TV used to be on often because we would watch different shows that came on at different times. My great-grandma loved watching The Price is Right. She used to get excited for the contestants: "Oh, is she going to win this car?!"

For as long as I can remember, my great-grandma lived in the bedroom downstairs. I assume it was because all the rooms on the 2nd floor were taken and because she couldn't walk very well. Despite her physical weakness, one day when I was in junior high, she slowly walked up to my room to see a picture of me and my date to a dance. I think I still have that photo somewhere.

Thinking about my grandma and my great-grandma makes me think about how a fall can be the beginning of the end. My great-grandma fell and broke her femur, which rendered her bedridden. It also meant that she had to move into a convalescent home, where she spent the last years of her life. I also remember seeing my grandma fall, but I don’t think there was any single fall that was responsible for her moving into a nursing home. Rather, I think it was one of many that together signaled that she was getting really old.

This is where my great-grandma fell, seen from my perspective as I peered down from my room.

This is where my grandma fell, seen from my perspective after I heard her call out for me. What's scary is that I almost didn't hear her because I had earphones in. I still feel guilty about that.

I went to the cemetery yesterday to visit their graves and, honestly, I don't prefer that method of mourning. It seems artificial to me for some reason. I prefer to mourn by thinking about them and writing down memories. Sometimes before I go to sleep, I think about them while making an odd praying gesture. Not really sure why I do it. Just makes me feel better, I guess.

On Not Giving Money to Beggars

I just came back from the grocery store where I bumped into this woman asking for money. She had two kids with her, and she told me a story about how she needed to get a hotel room for $43. She was either sincere or a good actor: I couldn’t tell. So I gave her $5.

Every time a beggar asks me for money, I generally say “no.” And this has bothered me for years. Part of me thinks that the stories they tell me are lies and what they really want the money for is drugs. I’m sure that’s true for some of them, but it can’t be for all. The problem is that I don’t know who’s honest.

Sometimes I think that the cynical part of me is there to help mask my selfishness. Perhaps I simply don’t want to give them money and finding an excuse makes me feel better. I often say to myself, “I have a close friend who’s a social worker in LA and he tells me not to give money to beggars, because of the social services available to them.” But even if my friend is right, that’s for LA; it may not apply here. Maybe there aren’t sufficient social services in Saint Louis.

Maybe there are and maybe there aren’t. I don’t know. But what I do know is that I act like a selfish person when in doubt. I don’t know anything about the number of social services here, but I assume that there are enough of them. And what do you know? It also makes me feel better for not giving them money. I don’t know if any of the stories they tell me are true, but I’m going to assume that they’re not. And what do you know? It also makes me feel justified in not giving them money.

In addition to being selfish, I think there is another reason why I generally don’t give money to beggars, and it’s because I don’t want to feel like a fool. I don’t want to be the person who believes in their fake stories. I suspect I've been fooled multiple times in the past, and I don’t want it to happen again.

Here’s a question: Am I willing to forgo giving money to honest beggars to prevent the chance of feeling like a fool? Apparently, I am, even though I don’t think it’s right.

Here’s another question: Who am I to try to determine whether or not beggars are being honest? I’m not the best judge of character nor do I possess high social intelligence.

I also try to justify my stinginess by pointing to my financial situation. “Right now, I’m a poor grad student who has to plan out his finances,” I say to myself. "When I get tenure, I'll start being more generous. I'll start carrying around dollar bills just so I can give them out," I say to myself. But maybe that’s the lie. Maybe that’s the story I shouldn’t believe.

It seems that I'm very charitable to myself but not to beggars.

MA Dissertation Word Cloud

This is a word cloud displaying the most common terms I used in my MA dissertation, which was on the development of the natural diversity of human capacity.