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Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Dream of Sister's Funeral

 My sister Debbie has a form of early onset dementia. I won't go into details, but this is not Alzheimers and is a malady that typically has its onset at a younger age. At this point she cannot use language or feed herself, can barely walk. The prognosis is usually that someone will die 5-10 years after diagnosis, and she was diagnosed 10 years ago. She receives exceptionally good care, in a home setting, living with her own mother, and her daughter now too, so she has lasted longer than anyone could have hoped for.  

In this dream, I was texting B. about Debbie's funeral, but suddenly realized that I had not told her about the death itself. There are very few other details I can retain, though this was a long dream that began in another way and went through several stages of development before ending with this. There was one part where I was discovering a running path near an ocean, that then became a suburban street. Another part, a series of painful arguments with X.  


I was thinking, the other day, that I used to think of the euphemism of "passed away" or "passed' as appropriate for peaceful deaths, like "he passed away last night in his sleep." It came as a shock to me to realize one day that many people use it for violent or sudden deaths, like "She passed away in an automobile accident." At first, I just thought the person using this expression, who was talking about a war casualty in Iraq, was just wrong, mistaken in how this is supposed to be used. But then I kept hearing it in these "inappropriate" ways and realized that I did not appreciate how widespread it is. For some people, this is simply the normal way of speaking about any kind of death. I still do not use it myself, even for quiet, peaceful acts of buying the farm.  I would never, ever use it in cases where its euphemistic character clashes overtly with the nature of the death:  *"Lorca passed away in 1936." In other words, I experience a little shudder when I perceive the utter futility of the euphemism. Someone I knew once wrote that nobody is afraid of "passing away," only of "dying."  

1 comment:

Leslie B. said...

I don't understand why the verb to die is so traumatic and to pass makes everything so much better. But I wonder whether to pass implies resurrection and to die does not, and if that is why the latter is so shocking