I’ve always thought that there were two kinds of death–the simple physical death and the more difficult conceptual death.
Physical death is just that–your heart stops and your bodies functions cease completely, we all know what this is. It seems to me that physical death is typically the beginning of conceptual death and this is because the deceased person is no longer able to act as an agent that affects the physical world. The only reason that we’re ever able to become conceptual beings is because of the ways in which the world responds to us. The more we interact with it, the more it interacts with us and a conceptual relationship forms from that. For example, let’s look at a really pedestrian scenario: myself and a store clerk. I walk to the clerk’s store, I purchase something, I interact with the clerk, and that’s it. Even from that small interaction, the clerk has formed an idea of me that exists beyond my physical body. Even if it’s just as minute as our interaction, it’s still there. But because the relationship is so small and insignificant, I will soon fade from the clerk’s memory and cease to be in the mind of the clerk.
Now, let’s say that I visit the store more frequently and interact with the clerk and we form some kind of relationship. My conceptual existence in the clerk has become more cemented and will get even stronger the more I become relevant to the clerk’s life, like if I were to become his friend or if we did activities together outside of our patron-clerk interactions. Actually, even if my physical body were to perish without a trace, my conceptual self (which is arguably stronger since it can exist beyond death) would continue to live on, at the very least, within the clerk.
To conceptually die is much more difficult because the conceptual self is impossible to quantify and permanently erase. If we hark back to the example with the clerk–in which my physical body has died, but my conceptual self still exists within the clerk–conceptual death can only be achieved if the clerk: a) was the only person I was of any significance to and b) eventually dies (whenever and however that may be). But even then, let’s say the clerk dies some unfortunate death, as long as there are pictures or footage of me, I’ll continue to exist or have the opportunity to exist in the mind of whoever watches my photos or footage. In other words, as long as the idea of you persists significantly, your conceptual self will remain on this Earth.
While it’s true that I do want my physical body to perish, the act of physically dying only prevents the spread of my conceptual self, which doesn’t totally achieve my goal of conceptual death. This is because I’m not proud of who I am or the things I’ve done while living. While my conceptual death can’t undo these things, it will certainly erase them (there is a difference between undoing and erasing). However, because of attempts (more like mistakes) I’ve made to get close to certain people and the accidental influence I’ve had on others, it may be quite a while until I conceptually die, but perhaps if these people learn the true contents of my character, they will find me too unsavory to think of and I will lose my significance. I can’t say that this will happen for a long time, especially because I have immediate family members, but for everyone else, this seems like a probable scenario.