I love Lia Habel’s zombies in DEARLY, DEPARTED. I also love Jem Carstairs in Cassandra Clare’s INFERNAL DEVICES series. Both the zombies and Jem know they’re living on borrowed time, but they make the best of it.
(If you haven’t read these, you might want to look away now. I’m keeping it as spoiler-free as I can, but the topic makes me reveal things you might not want to know beforehand.)
The zombies, having overcome the psychological torment that they’re already dead, keep going, keep fighting to help others and to find a way to stop their disease from claiming more of the living. They don’t bemoan their fate. Sure they’re not happy about it, but they accept it. And having done that, they put their remaining time into a goal.
Jem. Lovely, talented, mortally poisoned, Jem. He heads toward his inevitable premature demise with grace and kindness toward others. When his affliction overwhelms him, he takes his anger and frustrations out on his violin strings. He’s caring and supportive of others, even in his weakest moments, even when the other person’s actions hurt him.
The thing about characters like these that makes me love them so much is they strive to live in the time they have. Even when they fall into despair, they find a way to pull out of it. They give me perspective on my own petty issues, make me grateful for what I have, and the strength of character and will they show encourages me. They shame me, inspire me to work for what I want, and remind me to be better because no one really knows how much time they have.
And the authors who created these beautiful dying characters have utterly hooked me. Because I’m still waiting, still hoping for miracles. (I'm ever the optimistic.) Expecting my heart to be broken and to burst with joy at the same time. Staring at Shrodinger’s cat-concealing box and believing in two possible paths. That’s some powerful anticipation.
There are many reasons to love both Habel’s zombies and Clare’s Jem, but those are topics for another post.