We are taught from a young age that death is to be respected — as though the simple act of drawing one’s last breath is capable of washing away a lifetime of misery and sin.
Those who manage to escape the clutches of a dysfunctional family know this isn’t true, but even then the daggers of guilt emanating from those still trapped in the mire are difficult to avoid unscathed.
But here’s some cold truth: we don’t have to mourn the dead or dying if we can’t celebrate their life.
Child killer Clifford Olson is dying of cancer. Good. I wrote a few weeks ago that cancer is a bastard, but in this case it takes a bastard to rid the world of a monster. As a gentle, anti-death-penalty society, we couldn’t fast track Olson’s journey straight to hell where he belongs — but, fortunately, cancer doesn’t have the same qualms. It’s a gun-toting vigilante with rotten eyesight that targets good and evil with the same relentless and seemingly unstoppable abandon.
When Olson dies — and I hope it’s soon — his body should be treated in much the same way as the U.S. handled Osama bin Laden. We don’t have to go to the expense of dumping his body in the ocean, though. A simple cremation, followed by his ashes being dumped in an unmarked garbage pile will do just fine. We don’t need a marker for he’s already left a scar upon our country that will never heal. A tombstone would be an insult to the grieving families of his victims.
In Britain, they’re a bit more morbid when it comes to death. One of their favourite holidays is held every Nov. 5 when children gather old furniture and discarded wood to build a huge pyre; other children make a human form out of old clothes and newspaper, which they trot door-to-door and ask neighbours for money in order to buy fireworks. “Penny for the Guy,” they yell (although inflation may have changed the song in the years I’ve been away). Once the pyre is built and fireworks bought, the Guy is placed on the very top of the wooden pile. And with smiles on every face, the bonfire is lit and everyone cheers when the Guy catches fire and burns.
The holiday is in celebration of the capture and execution of Guy Fawkes, the main fall guy for a group of 13 that plotted to destroy the British Houses of Parliament because King James I wasn’t too fond of Catholics.
I was going to suggest that we form our own night of celebration to mark the day of Olson’s death, but I hate to think of his name having any connection to the sight of children laughing and smiling. Just as he doesn’t deserve a single shed tear, neither does he deserve a single smile.
Let Olson’s death simply be a matter of public record and then give him exactly what he never wanted — to be ignored.
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My thriller K.A.R.M.A. is partially inspired by the crimes of Clifford Olson - but in K.A.R.M.A., my characters have a different ending in mind.