The Cost of Dying, the Price of a Human Life

by Jackie Johnson

The cost of dying,

The price of a human life

What is the cost to die? What kind of price tag do we or can we put on a person's death?

This question came to me upon the recent passing of my brother. It's mind boggling to think of all of the expenses associated with the cost of a person's passing. The burial, the funeral, the casket's or cremation. The flower's, food, gatherings and all the supplies needed to honor the one's we love in passing over after life.

It's been very difficult to talk about my brother's death. But what has me even more bothered is the cost that we put into the loss of a life. He died in a nursing home under the care of Hospice. MS took him from us and there was nothing surprising or slow about his leaving. Toward the end of his 53 years of life, the only thing he was able to move was his head. He wanted to go. He lay in bed day after day, watching TV, sleeping and cherished the friends he had made that came to check up on him day after day as he lay in his bed. He raised two children on his own and worked hard at his job to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. He never had enough money to send his kids to college or to even leave them anything upon his death. When the cost of the medications got too much for him to pay after the MS progressed, he split pills that he should have been taking whole and skipped days when he should not have just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. After he went on disability from work when he could no longer do his job to earn money, he was granted long-term disability and Social Security Disability income. It was not enough as the disease progressed. He needed a mobile chair to get around and the medications got more expensive. Finally, he had to go on Medicare and go through Social Services for the help he needed. And when he could no longer care for himself, he had to live in a nursing home for the remainder of his life. All of the money that he was collecting from long term disability and Social Security went to the nursing home save for the $50.00 they allowed him to have for his own personal use. So when he passed after working for some twenty years for one company and being struck down by the disease, my parents started to scramble just to find a way to lay him at peace after 53 years.

So recently after my brother's death, as I lay on the couch watching TV, after being struck down with arthritis and degeneration in three places in my back which is causing chronic pain in all over my body, I watched the procession of Michael Jackson's funeral and wondered if the same thing that happened to my brother, would happen to me. I am still trying to get short-term disability benefits that my employer's insurance company has denied twice already. I too have worked most of my life. Having worked in the same profession for 30 years wondering if I was going to leave my son with a huge funeral bill and struggling for a way to lay me at peace. I was not an entertainer and neither was my brother but we worked very hard to raise our children the best that we could and we both worked very hard at our jobs, even, I would bet just as much as Michael Jackson worked at his. Millions of people did not line the streets when my brother passed but our pain was just as severe as his family's. His friends pain maybe even more than Michael Jackson's fans. So why do I feel so devastated that Michael Jackson's funeral expense for police service only was $150,000.00. It's hard to find an exact number but from what I am seeing, it cost nearly $1.4 million to lay Michael Jackson to rest. My brother may not have been loved my millions, but I would bet he was loved even deeper by family and friends. My parents were thankful to find that Social Security was going to foot most of the $1100.00 bill that it cost to lay my beloved brother to rest. We had his services in the nursing home where most of his friends were, that was free. My mom bought a cake and flower's were donated by some of his friends. A memorial book was put together by my mother as well. It was beautiful to hear his reverend friend get up and play the guitar and sing to my brother his Farwell. He was not buried with jewels, fancy suits, diamonds and glitter. He was cremated at the very lowest reasonable cost that we could afford. He was not a pop star, but he was just as giving and caring a person as Michael Jackson was. He did not create songs, as he was too busy working at his job trying to make ends meet. But he touched the lives of everyone he met by just being him.

I wondered if I was that jealous as I lay there watching Michael Jackson's funeral procession because it was disturbing to me. His family did not love him more than our family loved my brother. His fans did not love him more than my brother's friends. He did not work harder than my brother did; he did not love his children more than my brother did. Michael Jackson gave quite a bit of his money away, but my brother gave whatever he had. So why was I getting so upset watching this $1.4 million dollar funeral?

Because I realized that people put a price tag on other people's lives. "The meek shall inherit the earth". When that statement was made the maker of that statement did not realize that we as a society would evolve to what we have become, a society of money. And I begin to wonder what a little child living in poverty, who has not eaten in two days or more because their mother was too sick to look for food would think of the $1.4 million dollars spent to bury and honor someone they did not even know. It is our fault after all. Michael Jackson worked for a living just like my brother did, just like I did. The only difference is, we paid Michael Jackson his wages. All of us. Yes, we loved his music, but the company that my brother worked for, loved his work as well. Just how much money does it take to pay an entertainer. Can we as a united world afford this? We paid the $1.4 million dollars to bury a super star because he entertained us. I don't want people to feel that I am picking on Michael Jackson. We do this for all entertainers after all. Do you know what a quarterback of a NFL football team costs us? Yes, us. We pay the salary because we want entertainment. A major league baseball player? A hockey player? We pay them such high salaries because they entertain us. It's shocking really.

I don't know about other people but I would gladly give up listening to a song that someone else wrote, and watching a football game at a stadium to be able to give my brother the proper funeral he deserved. Not expensive, but much more than we were able to give him. I would gladly give up going to the movies in order to feed 24 hungry children for the price of a single movie ticket.

I have turned off the television, I am humming my own tune, and I pick up a book every now and then when I have some relaxation time and I need a break from the day to day chores. I go for a walk in the evening talking to people I meet along the way. I am now on food stamps due to my disability and only buy the things that I truly need. I enjoy each and every dollar that comes my way and give to "Feed the Children" whenever possible. And I try very hard day after day to ignore the $1.4 million dollar funeral, the pouting starling's that are being chased after by the paparazzi, the million dollar contracts they pay the sports stars, and the absolutely horrible lives that the movie stars have to endure. I just can't think about those things. All I think about is that old saying I heard somewhere, "The meek will inherit the earth". Whatever that means.

Jackie Johnson

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