Sunday, September 4, 2011

By Any Other Name

I try to be brutally honest in most things here on the blog; but sometimes (like this morning) it seems as though I'm writing around the point, rather than getting to it. Not being deliberately misleading. Just not getting it.

There's something that I'm missing.

Does anyone else ever feel this way? As if the monster is standing right behind you, but no matter every which way you turn, you can't manage to see it?

Just like a movie, really. The audience can see the monster, but the character can't -- until it's too late.


At work on a Sunday. Seems pointless, really. Perhaps things will pick up as the day rolls on, perhaps the upperclassmen will start to return. Even so, it seems silly to be here at eight bloody o'clock in the morning when the campus is deader than Rock Hudson.


Ah, now. Speaking of Death. Although I sometimes personalize him (or her, depending on my mood), I dislike euphemisms for death, especially since my mother's.

"Passed Away" isn't the worst; the "away" part at least acknowledges the truth. But "Passed" or "Passing" to me smacks of Magical Thinking -- as though your loved one isn't gone. . . just, you know, moved sideways into another dimension.

To say that they are "with God now." That's the worst. Surely, if you are Of The Faith. you have to believe that all of us are with God, all of the time, all of our lives. What then is the purpose of this phrase? Does anyone really believe that our dearly departed are gleefully cavorting on the playground in the clouds with the Bearded Old Man watching over them like a benevolent parent? Does anyone really believe that our dead are busily having tea parties with Jesus in the stratosphere?

"Called Home." What does that mean? My mother's home was here with me. She wasn't called. She was taken.

"Crossed Over."  The Styx aside, death isn't a river that one ferries across, to emerge on the other side, Just the Same, only in a Different Place.

I have a hard time saying "dead" and "died," too, and have to force myself to type it, as when I had to write about my Uncle Orly earlier this week.

The word that I feel, the word that I know, is "Gone." It's the only honest word, the only word that expresses the emptiness. We like to imagine that our loved ones are "in a better place," but the reality is that they aren't where we want them to be: here, with us. How can death be a better place when what it means is the absence of life?

At their worst, euphemisms for death can even be used to justify the taking of life. I've been feeling well alone, in this past decade, with my belief that George Bush did a terrible thing when he invaded Iraq, and that President Obama has been wrong not to bring a swift end to it. Two wrongs don't make a right. All life is sacred. It's galling to know that the same people who want to outlaw abortion are perfectly OK with killing as many Muslims as possible. When Jimmy Carter declared with a smile that "Today, we are at peace," I was one of the ones who snickered -- because I believed that it was finally and for all time evident to the plainest idiot that War is never the answer. Now look at us. Carter's peace was a bigger accomplishment than I believed.

I've said good-bye so many times that it's become monotonous, a litany of goodbyes, like a string of Hail Marys assigned in penance: "Say a thousand goodbyes and call me in the morning."

Say a million goodbyes.

Say ten million goodbyes.

Keep on saying goodbye. . . until it's your turn.

In my case, there isn't going to be anyone left here to miss me. That's probably for the best. I'd hate to be responsible for anyone feeling the kind of sadness and loss that I feel on a daily basis.

-- Freder.

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