You Die Twice

I watched a report, entitled Remembering with Dignity, on the PBS Newshour the other night. It was about efforts to remember and recognize people who had died while in a state mental institution in Minnesota years ago. When those people died, they were buried on the institution’s grounds; their graves were marked with numbers, not names.  One of the people in attendance at a ceremony to remember one person said something that struck a nerve. She said: “The Jewish saying is that you die twice. You die once, when you do die, but the second time you die is when your name isn’t spoken anymore.” Her point, I think, was that the people who were forgotten during their lives and then dispatched with a number upon their death were being given another opportunity to be remembered.

I have heard that quote, or something similar to it, many times, but I did not recall when nor where. I went looking for the origin of the saying about which the woman referred, but didn’t find it.  It’s probably older than the Internet can cope with.  But I did come across this video clip from the film Stand Up Guys.  It has its own power.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Death, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to You Die Twice

  1. Can anyone tell me the meaning of this English proverb: “To die at another’s will, is to die twice.”

  2. Juan, I just watched Stand Up Guys, the full film. Seems “my living could be a tool for someone…..” was in there someplace!

  3. Juan, I have to admit you may be asking me to think beyond my capacity! But I do THINK I get where you’re going with this. Ultimately, assuming the question does arrive at focusing on specific missions, it may be a straightforward question. But, given that it was asked before any mission was laid out, the answer must be an unequivocal “no!” Without the aim, one cannot possibly fail at the objective, true?

    If you allow yourself to attach criteria to failure or success that are formed by others, e.g., financial success or failure by someone else’s standards, then you might get an answer…but ONLY through transference! Yes?

  4. Juan says:

    My friend….

    As you say, “Transference.” I swear we are in sinct right now!

    Okay, so I’m throwing out a half-baked discussion here…..maybe the Yule-Time season, or the fact that 2014 is just days away. Lots of rehashing – even until 1 in the morning last night when I wrote this sentence down:

    “Am I failed?”

    Divesting the sentence from anything positive or negative means that I am mechanically asking myself if I am some kind of verb:


    What? Am I seeking to be some kind of action?

    As an interrogative sentence, “I” is the subject of the sentence – meaning ME. “Failed” is a transitive verb; It denotes change from one state to another.


    Primarily, I am asking about change. The transition can be initially qualified as a negative. However, it could be seen as positive, especially if the interrogative statement was referring to murder or theft or something ill like that.

    ARE YOU STILL FOLLOWING? Have another whiskey before you read on!

    That became the core of the question that was actually dependent upon the meaning of “failed.” What is “failed”? And, what have I set out to do that would quantify or qualify the answer?
    The point here is that if I’m looking for some answer, then I need first to know “the mission.” Only then can I answer “Am I failed?”

    I think I’ve lead my life with no real agenda.

    In fact, I would say that most of my life has been a series of accidental turns here and there. I think most of us operate this way. Hence, to say whether I am “failed” is a moog point. Am I failed financially? Am I failed spiritually? Am I failed as father or husband?

    Those are probably questions I’ll posit to myself tonight.


  5. That could be, too, Larry.

  6. I don’t give a shit for me, Juan, for the same reason you cite. But it bothers me that people who weren’t accorded dignity in life are denied it in death, too. The efforts to remember them has no impact on them, of course, but maybe it erases just a tiny shred of the indignity they suffered. Or maybe it’s just transference; maybe I care but don’t want it to be obvious! 😉

  7. Larry Zuckerman says:

    or you die a thousand deaths.

  8. Juan says:

    I don’t really give a shit, because I’ll be dead anyway.

    When I’m dead, it will be just be Me and God, though I doubt He will be showing me some garden of His, or His personal recipes for beer-making, or that He would be giving telephone numbers to shapely babes with big ones.

    I don’t think the point is to be remembered….or rewarded…… rather, that “I am used like a tool …..that “my living” could be a tool for someone…..”

    Now that would be something!

  9. Susanne says:

    Certainly makes me think how long will we be remembered.

I wish you would tell me what you think about this post...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.