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15 May 2009

Last Kind Words
Some years ago friends of mine had a good friend who became ill and died. She was not very old, and was, I think, a writer. My friends, a couple, helped the grieving family in practical ways, including disposing of a number of large bags. At the landfill, as they were about to jettison the cargo, they noticed that they could see what was inside the plastic bags. Papers, including a journal (as I remember this second-hand tale) kept by the dead woman, were inside a bag.

At the time I was told this story I asked, "What did you do?"
"We threw them away."

I've thought about this numerous times, although I'm not exactly sure why. This isn't about right or wrong, and I have no knowledge of the people in the story beyond my two friends. I've wondered what I would do, although that would depend upon a number of variables, I suppose. How much? How clear? I think it likely I'd've not thrown away the journal bag, and would've taken it home, stowed it, and not looked at it again, or at least stowed it until I'd had time to decide tossing it was the best thing. That could be one of those "it reveals more about you than about the situation" things, I'm not sure.

Amongst the famous the loss of papers due to family actions is regrettable; I always think of Sir R. Burton's widow burning his papers, although it's happened many times and frequently because the dearly departed revealed things the family wished kept unknown, and/or there was adultery. When the person is not well-known there's very little to show that saving things makes any difference in the long view (Confederacy of Dunces is one example of it making a difference; another is Henry Darger).

It isn't the greater view but the narrower one that would stop my hand, though. It's still an interesting thing to think about - in some ways like my two questions "Would you rather be a sniper or a bomber?"* and "If someone were to shoot you dead, would you rather be shot in the back or would you rather see who did it and know what was happening?"** If you were asked to throw something in a furnace and you saw it was the last evidence of concious thought and personality of a friend, would you throw it?

* Sniper (Lucia scandelised me by saying, "bomber.")
** See

posted by - 4:09 PM

I would read it ... unless the person expressly wished it to be destroyed upon his or her death. If it turned out to be trivial tripe, I would then burn it.

Another conundrum: if it turned out to be unpublished masterwork, then who should get the royalties?
Part of the scenario is that the wishes of the dead friend are unknown. The things in the bag could be drawings, paintings, writing, anything.

Answer: In that unlikely possibility stemming from the far-fetched scenario I outlined, the recipient of royalties would depend upon specifics.
If the instructions were burn, I'd burn. If not, I'd keep and approach relatives to offer it back - then if they want to burn, that's up to them.

You ask hard questions. What's wrong with "What's your faveourite colour?" or "Do you like bunnies?"

/me wanders off in a cloud of moral angst and worry.
Sniper or bomber?
Back or front?

All of them, but if I were buying something and had a choice I'd probably take green. Or red. Or black.

I like rabbits. Once I was getting ready to go to work and a racket on the lawn drew me outside. A mother rabbit (actually a hare but we shall not split them) was terribly upset that some crows were attempting to kill her baby by stabbing it with their beaks. I scooped up the baby and took it with me, then when I got home let it loose; it probably died later but at the time ran off quite smartly. At least it wasn't killed in that way, or anyway I didn't hear it happen.
hehe - Os the rabbit saver! Another reason you is da acers :)

Me: Sniper & Front. Most def, front - want to look into their eyes :)
One of those crows was the one that attached himself to me and used to fly down the drive when he saw my car and then land on the car roof, scritch-scritch-scritch over to the front and look in through the glass. I didn't hold it against them, but it is disconcerting to see them killing something. If one pays attention in spring one sees them offing baby birds what have done fallen from their nestses. Nature, red in tooth and claw etc. etc. It's odd how human beings regard that as unforgiveable yet we perpetrate abominations like factory farming, genetic modification (not just modern but things like selectively breeding milk cows until now they are in effect crippled by their udders), and so on and continue to believe we are just and good.

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