Jack Ohman

Editorial cartoonist, writer and Joe King’s alter ego

For Baby Boomers, even death can be made all about you...

09/24/2013 6:00 PM

09/24/2013 4:33 PM

As an official Late Baby Boomer (1960-64), I have watched with some amusement the machinations of my Early Baby Boomer (1946-53) cohorts. The Early Baby Boomers are the hippies, and my people are the Michael J. Fox types: MBA for me, thanks, hold the philosophy degree. We’re not better. We’re just different.

The Early Baby Boomers turned every single thing they experienced in life into a national trend. They grew their hair long; you had to grow your hair long. They took drugs; you took drugs. They got into running, macrobiotic diets, Jazzercize, book clubs, and you got dragged along, too. Because Early Baby Boomers must lead.

And now, they’re leading someplace they never thought they’d go.

Death.

We all have to die, of course. I’ve looked into it. I researched this extensively, and I just can’t find any case law that gets me out of it. Fine. I get it. I’ll think about it right after I get back from the plastic surgeon. But because Early Baby Boomers have to have the Perfect Death Experience, they have started a new trend:

“Death Dinners.”

That ain’t Farm to Fork, people. This is Buy the Farm to Fork.

A Death Dinner is where aging boomers share a tasty group meal and have a solid rap session where meaningful, beautiful feelings are shared. The boomers then talk about…you know. The Big Dessert.

Apparently, the subject of death is taboo to some baby boomers, and they haven’t personally experienced any of that. They just thought they could exercise their way out of it. Having lost my father and two of my best friends within about six months of each other recently, I didn’t need to have a Death Dinner to talk about the subject. I am acutely aware of my mortality and those around me to the point where I am constantly telling people I love them, they’re important to me, and so on.

My Early Baby Boomer friends look at me funny when I do this, but it feels right to me – way better than having a well-prepared, low-fat, no-palm-oil Death Dinner to work out my feelings about death. At the dinner, all the fun subjects are covered: disposition, pain, wills, last wishes, and the afterlife, or lack of same.

Death doesn’t care if you have feelings. Death is ecumenical. The good news about death is that we all have to go through it, even if we have just found the right amount of collagen to stick in our foreheads. John Kennedy once famously noted that life is unfair. He also might have added that death is extremely fair.

In an article on Bloomberg News, one of the boomer Death Dinner participants told of his final wishes: that his children had to scatter his ashes around his favorite mountain in Tibet. This seems to me to be the ultimate baby boomer conceit: not only does your final resting place have to be hip, your kids have to buy plane tickets to Tibet, rent an SUV, hire a guide and then scout out the right Tibetan mountain in order to execute your precious rite. Then they fly back, assuming they haven’t been jailed by Chinese authorities.

And you’re not even around (presumably) to brag about it.

The good news is that the generation that the Early Baby Boomers spawned has no future expectations, which is enormously useful in thinking about death.

The bad news for their kids is those airline fares to Tibet are death.

About This Blog

Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award and the national SPJ Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com. Twitter: @JACKOHMAN.

 

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