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Sweet FA, a whiff of the reaper, grim or cordial

I had a message from my funeral advisor last week. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t “my” funeral advisor, it was “a” funeral advisor. But the questions that originally rushed into my mind remained the same. Is this a representative on earth of the appropriate authority above? Why is he advising me funerally? Is there a hint in there somewhere? How do I address him – sir, madam, or Oh god? And how did sir/madam get my email address?

In a fit of annoyance, I deleted the message without reading it, but when you get an email like that, the possible underlying message always remains with you. I wasn’t even aware there were funeral advisors in this world. Or the next. I can’t speak with authority about the latter since the advisor on this side is bound to get across to the other at some point (possibly with the help of one of his colleagues).

Perhaps the FA (funeral advisor) had nothing much to say, and was merely wishing me, a random person, a happy new year. Perhaps the FA had heard some news relevant to me and was passing it on. Perhaps he was trying to sell me something.

I visualise the FA as a serious man in a beard with unsmiling eyes and a mouth that merely confirms his lack of humour. Possibly carrying a scythe. To imagine him, therefore, as a common garden-variety salesman whose messages find their natural home in the trash can is somewhat difficult.

It is disconcerting when a total stranger appears to know more about you than you do yourself. Or perhaps this wasn’t a display of knowledge so much as a display of desperation in these COVID-19 times. Maybe the FA has worked out that there is money in the morbidity business, and he might as well gain the first-mover advantage.

COVID-19 is the contemporary man’s memento mori. In ancient Rome, when a triumphant general headed a procession, he had a slave behind to remind him that he was only human. Memento mori is a reminder of what happens in the end to all humans.

I wish now I hadn’t deleted the message like I delete those from insurance agents, people asking for money and those who are Princes in their own country and need just a few hundred thousand dollars of mine so they can access their funds from my country. I would liked to have started a conversation. Did you always want to be a funeral advisor from the time you were a child? What university courses did you attend in pursuit of your dream? What did your parents think about your ambition?

I didn’t get a message from a birth advisor when I was born, or a maturity advisor when I matured or a marriage advisor when I married. So this message was probably special. Too bad I won’t know what it was. I don’t see myself heading a triumphant procession any time soon, but memento mori is never wasted.

(Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu)

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 10:09:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sweet-fa-a-whiff-of-the-reaper-grim-or-cordial/article33706608.ece

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