No matter how much we pretend otherwise, it is what it is

pic_bereavementDeath is not a good thing.

As far as we know. 

We could be wrong about that.

For those left behind death is invariably a bad thing, unless the deceased was evil — or a complete asshole.

I only mention a topic we’d all rather avoid because a neighbor lost his wife on Tuesday after she’d had a long bout with cancer.

No, he didn’t ‘lose her’, she died. It was very sad. She was a nice lady.

Anyway, I saw him this morning out walking his little ‘Toto’ dog and I, like many of us, had an initial impulse to pretend I’d not seen him. But, I didn’t do that. I didn’t avoid what needed to be done. I walked over to him and extended my condolences. I was glad I had because he then opened up about her last day this side of the lawn.He wanted to do that.

In the foregoing I don’t intend to sound flippant and uncaring because I am neither of those things.

But, death is a great leveler. Our attitude about it speaks of how we deal with this matter that is an equal-opportunity happenstance for all. The moment a baby is born he/she is under death sentence – sooner or later.

But, we don’t like the concept of death. We try to avoid it or we reference it in either a jocular manner or euphemistically.

I have noticed, for example, that since I have reached a certain age that I, when in conversation with a contemporary, will open a conversation thusly:

“So, good to see you. How ya doing?”

“Well, still this side of the grass.”

Or other similar remarks like: “Looking at the flowers rather than the bulbs.”

Euphemistically we talk about “Passing on; passing away; deceased; gone to be with Jesus; joining the spirit in the sky; in the great beyond; at rest, etc. etc.”

What we don’t like to say is “dead!”

When I started at my first newspaper one of my first tasks was writing up obituary notices. My hard-assed editor was insistent in demanding that no euphemisms would be permitted. “Fred Jones died on March 25th, he did NOT pass away.


Likewise, Sally Smith died in a head-on collision at 5th and Maple, she did not pass away.

On this topic I do not intend to be either morbid or disrespectful. Death is hideously difficult for all impacted and we each deal with it in our own way. I, like many of you, have been impacted by the deaths of people close. My parents are gone, as are a lot of aunts and uncles and a couple of very dear friends who died far too young. It’s always a blow to the gut and demands a lot of inner resources from the survivors.

Perhaps one such way to cope is to be as honest about it as we can, especially when dealing with the newly grieving. They know what has happened and they do not want you to avoid that mammoth elephant in the room.

If they need to talk, then they must talk and you must be there for them.


13 responses to “No matter how much we pretend otherwise, it is what it is

  1. Right on, Mr Writeon

  2. Great piece.

  3. Indeed. You nailed it.

  4. It must be my age: I read the obits regularly.
    Trying to imagine one’s last moment(s) is difficult. How will I react, will I know? Will my last emotion be anger, fear, love, sorrow. It won’t matter but I still wonder.
    I’m not so worried about the use of euphemisms. Death, especially your own, is a tricky subject. You need to sidle up to it, not stare it out eyeball to eyeball. Anyway how can you hope to get one over – death has all the cards.
    You see, something prosaic as death is tricky to grasp so you’re forced to personify it. ” Oh Death where is thy sting, Oh, grave where is thy victory”.

    More importantly what happens to our blogs etc when we suffer that final outage?

  5. This made me think of that scene from Patch, where they’re coming up with words for ‘dead’

  6. I agree Ian. After Gom died I refused to say he ‘passed’. Passed would seem to imply he is now somewhere else, and I dont really believe that. I talk often of his death, ~ I say he is dead, he died.
    Now my son is dying of a rare and incurable, untreatable cancer, and I am so terrified of his death. When I tell people he is dying, some recoil hi horror.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s