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The Great Equalizer

It has been noted that capitalism not only has increased the cost of living but has also increased the cost of dying.

Death, like baptisms and weddings, inevitably requires ritual and there is no ritual without expenses. Guests come to christen a babe and shower a couple with rose petals; but they also come to shed soil upon a grave and say a prayer in a moment's silence. And whenever you have your distant aunt flying in from some unknown part of the earth or call on a priest who is more than willing to perform the dying sacrament of the dying, you will always have to take out some money from your pocket as you pour out tears from your eye socket.

Those who lived extravagantly are expected to die extravagantly: white coffins gilded with gold; a parade of Mass cards and funeral wreaths from sympathetic friends and apathetic colleagues; serving cocktails mocking the spirits of the dead; big sums of money donated to a popular cause in lieu of flowers and in the name of the generous but now cold-faced deceased; a slow and sombre funeral convoy led by a Mercedes Benz hearse followed by Jaguars, BMWs and SUVs that now embody the grief of men in its blinking hazard lights showing that cars of whatever make also cry; the granite mausoleum long bought that now finally awaits its buyer to enter; and the richness of rich men in the poverty of grief.

The rich die rich; but how about the poor?

On this one and final occasion, the poor man stands on the same ground as the rich man; or better, they are both equally six feet under.

The poor man's wooden box may not shine as the rich man's golden coffin; yet both contain a body from which all animation has long departed. The poor man's wake may not have the flowers and the pastries and the juices they have and offer in the rich man's wake; but you will surely have visitors who are wide-awake until the morning for company while the dead rich man is alone at night because his guests are already in the comfort a sleep from which they hope to still awake. The poor man's march to the grave may have its marchers marching on their feet and carrying him and his coffin under a noonday sun; but they cry as hard and try as hard to understand the march of time as those inside their luxury vehicles who know full well that this is the last trip that their friend will take in his "life."

The rich man dies as the poor man dies. What the rich man has striven for all his life to win and to possess now leaves him in the last and final crisis which is no longer a financial crisis--but the crisis he shares with the poor brother he had stolen from most of his unhappy life with his happy indifference.


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