Pascal Derrien

5 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Why Does The Reaper Always Take Grim Decisions?

Why Does The Reaper Always Take Grim Decisions?

Frankly I don’t have the answer to this question. Death is an uneasy topic to talk about in general and in business circles in particular. Its economic weight is about 11 Billion of dollars per year for the US alone there is roughly 1.8 death per second in the world this is a staggering number of discussion opportunities for businesses such as tombstone manufacturers, funeral houses, solicitors, florists or car companies to name a few. 

There is a large ecosystem directly or indirectly set up around the business of death on the globe but today I would like to set the business discussion aside and invite you to a more kaleidoscopic conversation. 

Death has always been both celebrated and feared, as far back as 60,000 BC man buried their dead with ritual and ceremony. Kimberley Powell is proposing a few thoughts on the topic. ‘

’Many early burial rites and customs were practiced to protect the living, by appeasing the spirits who were thought to have caused the person’s death. Such ghost protection rituals and superstitions have varied extensively with time and place, as well as with religious perception, but many are still in use today. 

In some cultures, the home of the deceased was burned or destroyed to keep his spirit from returning; in others the doors were unlocked and windows were opened to ensure that the soul was able to escape. Cemetery & Burial Cemeteries, the final stop on our journey from this world to the next, are monuments to some of the most unusual rituals to ward off spirits, and home to some of our darkest, most terrifying legends and lore’’ 

Thank you Kimberley, not sure where you sit on this but I am now reaching an age group which while I am sure I have many more years to come I have to contemplate the daunting task of writing a will. Far from being a grim decision, it is actually a very positive one, I see it as what is best for the peace of mind and comfort of my children and wife. 

Now it is not an easy task in itself for anybody, but us ‘’migrants’’ have the overwhelming and philosophical task to think about where our final destination will be. Some of us are very practical and pragmatic and home is where you come from, for others it is where you live and for others it is not that simple. 

I am part of the latter and as ever I have to ask myself a series of tricky questions: Will I rest in peace with my choice? What is the legacy? What is the message?  My father passed away suddenly a few years ago and he is buried in the Parisian suburb, I did not think too much about any non-practical considerations when it happened, it was sudden and I made the decision very quickly. 

On reflection I realize his parents are resting in Brittany and may be things should have been different? In the absence of a will I think I made the right decision I hope I did. 

Refugees, asylum seekers who like many others are/were part of a political flow of emigration in the last 30 years have in common that they were/are departing a country no longer aligning with their value system or they have simply been rejected and forced to exile, some of them are clearly indicating they want to have nothing to do with their birth country while others may not have the choice to have a choice. In the end a few may not even be able to simply afford a funeral in their country of origin. 

Death and identity is not a circumscribed or a time limited issue, it’s not new either. There is this German War Cemetery in a place called Glencree in the middle of the Wicklow mountains near Dublin in Ireland. I know Ireland was neutral and was not taking part in the conflict but ‘’There are 134 graves. Most are Luftwaffe (air force) who lost their way, ran out of kerosene or crashed, and Kriegsmarine (navy) personnel. 53 are identified, 28 are unknown. Six were World War 1 prisoners held by the British. Forty-six were German civilian detainees, who were being shipped from Britain to Canada for internment when their ship SS Arandora was torpedoed by a German U Boat off County Donegal in 1940’’ 

Who would have known that a twist of fate, irony and destiny would have played a trick on those people, they probably never envisaged to be trapped for ever on a tiny piece of German soil in the East of Ireland, I guess for their relatives knowing it is administered by the German War Graves Commission is certainly a meagre consolation. 

Having said that, you could say they were lucky by 21st century standards as nowadays with so many displaced victims of conflicts around the world having the equivalent of Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge could almost be seen as a Westerner deluxe service. I think it is not, Israelis very often refer to birth rights what about death rights?  

A friend of mine Tim O’Connor, often refers to the custodians of the graves in the context of diasporas (referring to Irish graves in Canada in that instance) and the duty to perpetrate the legacy and memory. 

This comment did really strike a chord with me and it got me thinking: what does this mean for me personally? I don’t really belong to the old country (France) anymore even if I have obviously some affinity but time is passing and on the other hand I am not fully ‘’Irishized’’ either, I guess I am confused :-). 

This is not a unique situation though, did you know that 200 Million people live and work in a country which is not their birth country, imagine the number of decisions about the end of the journey that may need to be taken. 

Years ago I thought I would have taken the option of cremation and be shipped over to the Pere Lachaise (I was born in Paris), I believed that would close the loop nicely. I thought it would be great to be surrounded by rock stars, writers and famous politicians. 

Then something came up, it was this ‘’Irish’’ grave in the very same cemetery where my father is buried, the name is unmistakably Irish and my assumption is that this lady was apparently born in Morocco and passed away in France.  I am not aware of the story behind the name but there is a deep sense of isolation and geographical loss insofar that the tomb is noticeably not maintained, I (often) pass by and wonder where the custodians are, was the connection with Ireland strong if any? 

I think I silently spoke to Kathleen (it is her first name) and shared that I am a nomadic soul too, she does not answer but she is happy to know that I understand where she does come from. I promised her I would bring back something from Ireland the next time. 

I referred earlier to some plans I had in mind for me personally however I need to think about the practical costs and need to be conscious of the market law of supply on one hand and the demand on the other side. So since we are on a business platform you will be satisfied to know that I have a plan B, a business ‘’dis-continuity’’ management plan. 

What is it? Not being subject to any religion beliefs I have the luxury to be constraints free, so here I am, considering (when the time comes obviously) to be brought to a crematorium house in Ireland and I will ask my children to embark on a Ferry to have my ashes dispersed at the very exact point where the French limits of the Atlantic Ocean meet with the Celtic/Irish Sea. 

The big problem I have with this plan is that I have not decided (based on price ☺) if it should be a French or an Irish Ferry company. 

To be continued

He who has no future loses his grip on the present

Albanian Proverb


Kimberley Powell


Glencree War Cemetery (Ireland)

Tim O’Connor (Former Chief of Staff to Irish President Mary McAleese)


Photo Credits

Death Boat by Macabee

Previously Posted on a different Platform

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Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #2

Thanks Juan Imaz indeed :-) thanks for reading :-)

Pascal Derrien

5 years ago #1

thanks Michael I am going to check that music out :-)

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