An acquaintance of mine died the other day. When I read his obituary, I called a friend to tell him. He said what people almost invariably say in these situations:
“But I just talked to him the other day.”
George Carlin does a riff on this eternal response, something like:
“Oh, really? Well, you dumb cluck (epithet altered), it didn’t help him any, did it? He still died, even though you talked to him. As a matter of fact, your talking to him might even have hastened his demise…”
Here’s my take on it:
We all say this because we’re shaken and stunned to have been in the presence of imminent and brooding death. We think maybe we could have done something, said something…
We feel we ought to have been more respectful – to have paid more attention. If only we’d known this person was in the shadow of death…
Had we known, we would have regarded the about-to-die in a new light. We would have seized upon something to remember him by.
We would have stood in awe at implacable Death, or perhaps we might have been appalled by its importunity – its bad manners.
Yes, we do imagine, if we could have spoken the right word, the right phrase, we might even have warded off Death.