At the risk of sounding all gothy, death is something that I think about with some regularity.
For one thing, my spiritual life is deeply intertwined with the processes of death and rebirth. For another, I have reached the age where people close to me, as well as people in my age cohort have begun dying.
And while thankfully none of my medical conditions are imminently life threatening, living in an antagonistic relationship with a busted up body whose painful and constant movements are beyond my control does leave me with questions about what my own future, and future demise, may look like.
There's a saying, widely attributed to Bansky, that everyone dies twice, first when you take your final breath and again when your name is spoken for the last time.
Of course memories are incredibly fickle, and they gravitate to extremes. The dead quickly become black and white sketches in our minds, distilling the complex reality of what it means to be human into a set of strong memories both good and bad. When we die, we as an individuals cease to be part of the living world, and dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of simulacrums of who we were, each dwelling in the mind of someone who knew us, take control of our legacies.
The same thing happens on a more global scale. When we are gone from life, and perhaps from individual memory, the perception of what we were a part of continues to change and shift, and with it, future generations' understanding of who we were as people.
When I tell people that one of my grandparents, Jules, took part in the invasion of Europe during WWII, a picture of who he must have been takes shape in their mind, completely independent of the complex person he was in life. After all, we have a concept of the "Greatest Generation" that shapes our perception of people who belonged to it, not to mention of people who fought in WWII.
So it is with us today, especially in the LGBTQ community, which is at the center of a titanic and personal battle for equality in our society.
We can't know how future generations will regard us. Will we be seen as civil rights heroes, regardless of our individual involvement or lack thereof? Will we be seen perhaps as selfish, people who fought for their own rights and then left vulnerable members of our community or other minority/disadvantaged people to fend for themselves? Will our unity and sense of identity have fallen to pieces as opposition to our equality dwindled, or do we go on as a cohesive force in culture and society?
No one likes to contemplate the world after they are gone, and the immediate needs of the present can make looking to the far flung future seem to be an indulgence we can ill afford.
When we are gone and this time and this movement are empty shells of memory, the question of whether we leave behind a beautiful ruin that people revisit for inspiration or hope or if our legacy will be an eyesore on the banks of history, may help us shape the direction we will take as we move forward as individuals, a movement, and a people.