Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MORTALITY - A Ponderation on the Inevitable Occurance of Death

This blog is quite a morbid one, and if controversial, morbid and weird thoughts on the topic of death would disturb your fragile state, LOOK AWAY NOW.

Ah. Death.

I take this irreverent tone only because the whole concept of losing someone I love scares me. My fear of this is so off the charts that it has come full circle to rest on the arrow marked "Eerily Calm". I cast this frivolous spell around the concept of death, which allows me to refer to it in blunt terms and I use the words no one really feels comfortable with:


People get most put out when I say, "My mother is dead," rather than, "My mother has passed on."

I am not sure when or why this direct approach started. I first became aware of it when my Uncle "ended his life under tragic circumstances".

I am not saying my way of doing it is the better way. I don't like dressing things up and beating around the bush. That's my style and my friends know that if they were to be direct with me, I would appreciate it more. I understand why many of us need to soften the prospect of death. It makes it sit more comfortably. It becomes less stark, less cold, less forboding.

My casual attitude to the subject has lost me friends. I only recently realised this. A school friend was murdered about 6 years ago and when I mentioned this two people who contacted me through SA reunited, I didn't hear from either of them again. Not a peep. I think that my boldness (stupidity?) of referring to Death in cold, hard terms has alienated me somewhat. Perhaps you will stop reading my blog as a result of this.

When I told an (ex) friend, "My mother is dead," he told me I was a freak and to stop being so weird about it. He advised me to try to apply some of the softer terms to my statement instead. No one tells me how to express myself.

I have openly discussed the topic with Kate, to make her aware that I wish to have an eco-friendly funeral and that if I am brain dead, switch off the machines. I think this openness comes from my desire to challenge MY OWN thoughts and feelings regarding death.

The terms people have used around me have been ambiguous, vague, empty. I didn't deal well with my grandfather's death when I was 7. We were told that Papa had "passed away". Where to? I wanted to know. What did pass away mean? "Papa went home." Did he go back to Italy? Was he coming back? No one would say. I knew what dead was. My duck and chicken had died - both mauled by a stray dog. Had Papa been mauled by a stray dog?

Then I wanted to know, "Why do you say someone has passed away when you really mean that they are dead?"

I don't think I was invited to tea parties with cousins again after that.

So I don't pretend that death is pretty or nice or easy or swiped under the carpet. It's raw, prickly, painful. And that's why people don't talk to me anymore after I reply to their questions with, "No, my mother is dead," instead of "I am afraid my mother isn't with us anymore." Because the words are raw, prickly, painful to hear.

Perhaps I am a freak show who has got it all wrong. Bull in a china shop (born year of the Ox, after all). I just view things differently. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that death isn't an end, but rather a stage in a cycle of life that continues perpetually. We return to a latent state once we die, gather our energies, rest and then return to a physical life in another form. We have invented many religions and philosophies to help us to understand this concept. How can we possibly ever come to an end?

I don't believe we end at all. We rest, recharge and return. Perhaps I am just a freak after all, who presses the buttons and yells out in the middle of a ceremony. (And invents her own words like 'ponderation')


  1. You know, I never thought about it before. I never say "passed on". I say "My dad died just after my two year old was born." Or "My grandmother has been dead for three years now." I never even thought to say it another way. I'm a pretty direct person myself.

  2. Interesting. I feel exactly the same. Why should we use euphemisms to describe something as painful and final as completely losing someone.

    In the Jewish religion you are required to persnally carry the body of your loved one to the grave, lower the coffin into the grave, and then throw soil over it. I am grateful that I have buried loved ones this way as it has helped me to come to terms with the finality of thier death - in this life anyway.

    I must confess, though, that the emotions I feel when someone I love dies are very selfish - they revolve around the fact that I have been left behind and won't see them again in this life - not a comforting feeling.

  3. it's amazing how accepting people are of the continuous cycle of life, as in the seasons, birth to death, etc... but refuse to accept that there could be a greater cycle that we're a part of... after all (and this part of a post I'm developing for sometime in the next few weeks), energy is supposedly never created nor destroyed, and when a person dies, that energy has to go somewhere. It doesn't just stop.

    Anyway, this was a very interesting idea. Coming from someone who laughs at funerals, I'm with you on calling it dying, death, and dead. That's what it is.

  4. I also never say "passed away" or "passed on" - but I don't feel that the words "death" or "died" or "dead" are harsh words, maybe because they don't instil fear or dread in me like they do in so many others.

    I have no fear of my own death - only of losing someone else I love. And I don't feel bad to speak of the ones I have lost as being "dead" because it's just a word and doesn't make a difference to what the truth is... either they are in the spirit world and waiting to return in a new carnation - or there's nothing.

    Makes no real difference to us left over on this side does it?

    It's also Jewish tradition to wish someone "a long life" after a family member has died. I never got this and always rather say "I'm sorry for your loss" - which has upset a few relatives over the years... weird.

  5. There is nothing wrong is saying things like it is. In fact i appauld it. However until I know someone well enough I would say to them 'Has your Mother passed on?' although I don't mind the direct approach myself, I don't like upsetting people