Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Death

A little while back, a colleague was talking about an upcoming funeral and said something like "I just don't have time but Jane wanted me to be there."
Misunderstanding just exactly who was deceased I tried to reassure her with "Jane will never know, she died" (Jane was the widow and most definitely would be aware of who attended)
Pretty much immediately someone accused me (in a nice way) of being callous.Why, they asked, would I say such a thing? Why not Jane is gone? Jane has passed on or Jane passed away?
It's interesting because I think the actual death and loss is a lot more brutal than my lack of euphemism.
One of the ladies in my seniors group is quite unwell and I think she might be dying but the information I receive is inconsistent. People talk as though she will get better but they also talk as though she won't. Recently someone said a social worker should talk to her about the "next stage of her journey". With such a vague term being bandied about I actually asked if the next stage of her journey meant death and was met with a horrified NO.
Maybe  I offend them by accepting the inevitable or by trying to understand what is happening before the final days.
They don't realise that my intentions are entirely intended for the benefit of our friend. She is currently staying with a friend because she is unable to climb the stairs to her own flat and if she will never see her own home again I would like her to be able to see her beloved cats. Maybe she would like to have a couple of her collection of toy  monkeys (all gifts from friends) around her. Maybe she would like to choose some of her own poetry to be read at her funeral. Maybe she has a favourite shirt belonging to her late husband that she would like to wear.
I don't know.  I don't know what she wants and while we dance around, mincing words,  I won't know and don't have a chance of doing anything comforting for her.
Dead. Dying. Passed away. Shuffled off. Expired. Deceased. Departed. Slipped Away. Kicked the bucket.......

if you ask me, not one of them has the irreversible stench of regret that comes with "lost opportunity".

21 comments:

  1. I prefer using "dead' to "passed away" as the latter is, in my opinion, flowery and escapist. Will send you a mail with a clip that explains this phenomenon.

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    1. I have your email but I haven't yet watched the clip. I look forward to it :)

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  2. It gets very confusing towards the end of life, this is true. People pad about hinting at this and that.
    Anyhow, perhaps the next stage of your senior lady's 'journey' is a care home, or sheltered housing? Either way I'm sure she would like to see her cats again, and would like some of her possessions. You are very thoughtful.
    Sx

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  3. Thanks for this post Kylie, what an evasion it is. One of Grandgirl's friends recently lost his mother and it has been handled terribly. She admonished her mother (Daughter) not to tell anybody as her friend had said not to. It's a bigger story in that he and his dad cared for his dying mum for 3 months and cut themselves off media during the period. So her friend had no support and his group were frantic to make sure he was OK.

    I honestly feel that like you said, it would have been great for him to be encircled in love by his friends who have all been together since kindergarten just about.

    We are all so afraid of DEATH when it is the time we are needed the most.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. That's a dreadful story! We might all handle death better if we were a bit more exposed to it and I'm not talking about the deeply confronting parts, even just our language could be more honest

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  4. Maybe asking if your colleague is expected to be able to return home or not would accomplish the same thing as asking if she is expected to die. I applaud your suggestions to bring comfort to her, regardless of her predicted outcome. Comfort is welcome in illness as much as in impending death. I unequivocally agree with your statement on lost opportunities - nothing is sadder, even death, in my opinion.

    As for euphemisms, I don't much care whether people use them or not - people understand the gist of the meaning, and some folks prefer directness while others don't. I prefer the term "passed away" - it is universally understood just as much as "died" is, and seems gentler to me, coming as it does at a time when I try to be gentle with those left behind.

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    1. You are right, my efforts don't have to be tied to outcome. I must admit though that I'll try harder if I don't think there are more chances.
      Gentleness with those left is important, I agree.

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  5. I have no problem with died. I do try and avoid it when I know it will offend/be seen as callous. And sometimes make mistakes.
    I love your support for your friend and whatever the journey she is on, I am pretty sure she WOULD love to see her cats, and have some pieces of home beside her.

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    1. Yes, you are right about pieces of home.
      I need to ask more questions...

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  6. It's very easy to put one's foot in it but it would be helpful if people would speak clearly instead of going around the houses.

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    1. I feel like I have a bigger chance of saying the wrong thing when I'm not sure what I'm dealing with

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  7. The important thing here is to recognize what is going on. We have to accept that someone is near the end of their life and be honest with them and talk aout it if the person is willing.b

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    1. I'm starting to wonder if the lack of clarity is what the patient wants. Or maybe her doctors haven't spelled it out

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  8. Some people are looking for offense where none was meant. I told a person from Mexico, I loved her taan. About ten people jumped on me for being rude. The person was no offended and pulled up a tshirt sleeve to show people that I was right.

    I prefer died. When I die, I will day, not pass. Pass where Pass how? DEAD is not used to sound softer about what happened.

    Oh read my post today. I am homeless. House was razed.

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    1. I read your post!
      I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry it happened

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  9. I don't understand why people are so coy about death that they use umpteen euphemisms instead of plain language. People here always talk about someone passing or going or falling asleep or slipping away. What's wrong with the word died?

    Yes, it's hard to offer support to someone when nobody will be frank about their situation. Especially as you say when one person says they're near to death and another says the opposite.

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    1. I'm realising that I am avoiding the word dying in this particular case because on the very small chance that i am wrong, it would be a dreadful thing to say. Which means I'm perpetuating the problem

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  10. I use passed when I am speaking with people I know who have trouble using the word dead. Personally I have always used died or dead in reference to someone who is near to me who died.
    I am pretty sure that for every single human on this planet there is a 100 percent mortality rate, with the only variable being life's actual timeline.

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    1. I wish everyone was so up front about it! Everything I have read suggests that open discussion allows people to face death (their own or their loved one's) more peacefully

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