Richard Herring: Time weights for no man, dead or alive
Thursday 24 Jul 2014
I am always surprised how people just accept our customs as normal without questioning them.
For example, when a baby is born a certain amount of information is sent out to friends and family. It’s usually a photo, the name, time and place of the birth and the weight of the baby… That’s not a convention we seem so keen to follow through when someone dies.
In death we’re similarly reduced to statistics. Your gravestone will have your name, maybe a photo and the date of your birth (that one is not left hanging, they compete that statistic with your death date). But no follow up on the weight issue. Why not? Why have a start weight if you’re not going to bother with the end weight, too?
It’s one more piece of information about a person’s life. In 200 years’ time someone might walk past your grave and say: ‘Oooh, look how fat that guy got.’ You have no problem with the start date and the end date system. Why are a start weight and an end weight any less valid? How come we are happy to measure our lives in time but not mass? Why start something if you’re not going to complete it?
Everyone seems happy to weigh a baby after it’s just gone through the trauma of birth and that child is still alive to experience the humiliation. The dead person wouldn’t even know about it. But they could go to meet their maker safe in the knowledge that their final scale-score was recorded. It would be literally a weight off their mind. We could go to our destiny certain that everyone will know our density.
I think it might help the people through the grieving process. The doctor would say: ‘I am sorry to inform you that your grandmother has just this second passed away. But before you start to mourn, could you just help me pop her up on these scales? It’s for the end weight. It’s very important we don’t let her start to decompose.’
When I tell people about my end weight plan they look at me like I am insane but I think they’re insane for not wanting their end weight recorded. Why are you fine with dates but not weights? Why be so selective in your measurements? In an ideal world I’d like to see a system where everyone’s gravestone includes a graph of their annual weight, then you’d get a real sense of who they were. I understand that that’s impractical – it would be too much admin and would cost hundreds of millions of pounds. But we’ve already got the birth date, it wouldn’t take much to sort out the death weight, just to round things off properly.
It makes me furious that people won’t even contemplate the idea. You have all been conditioned to think that dates are fine but weights are weird.Death is a very significant event in our lives and I think we should commemorate it properly. When someone has a baby they plaster their Facebook page with pictures of the infant, why don’t we do that when someone dies? Get the family round the cadaver, thumbs up, maybe doing the old rabbit ears. Or they could be looking sad if you think that’s more appropriate.That idea seems sick to you. But in the 19th century photography was so rare and expensive, often the only photo you’d have of someone was them in their coffin. It’s just what you’re used to in your culture.
I’m hoping I can time it just right and go out with a selfie.