Friday, June 29, 2012

It's A Dead Issue: Honoring Life

Went into that good-night
Passed away
End of the race
Bought the big one
Bit the dust
Gone home
Bumped off
Checked out
Crossed over
Got their wings

These are only a few of the words and phrases used to talk about death without using the word dead.

No, this isn’t starting to seem like an uplifting blog. I hope indeed it doesn’t seem morbid!

Working in a hospital the terms we often use for conditions are specifically descriptive and clinical. The hospital staff use the term expired as in “The patient expired.” Much like with the phrases above there is truth. Somehow those phrases haven’t ever sat right with me.

Many of these terms make me think someone is trying to lighten the grief or make death all right when maybe that isn’t possible. Is it all right to lose your 90 year old beloved grandparent solely because of their age? Is it all right to lose a loved one from a chronic illness because their suffering is over? For me these words try to soften what truly cannot be softened.


Death is stark, not light nor funny and ultimately one experience we will all share. My perspective is we cannot make death all right because the person is of long age, ill nor any other reason. Death takes a relationship and alters it forever. The person may seem present in many ways yet you are not able to even share a cup of tea.

I like to frame death like the following example:

He was an amazing man and will be missed in a way no one else can understand *and* yet I am grateful he is no longer suffering.

There is another side of death that many are not willing to mention. That is the relief you might experience because of the relationship you had was not one that brought goodness.

Someone said to me a few weeks ago that in her faith tradition a person is inspired and then when they die they expire. I’m still trying to reconcile the word expire used in a different context.

Theology and beliefs also come for consideration as well. But, I believe your physical body must die before what you believe about the afterlife can begin.

My feelings about this subject are my own and I do not expect anyone else to agree. I do think that to say a person has died marks with a word the stark transition that has occurred. In that I also think it gives us a beginning to honor a life.

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