I love words; the look of them on a page, the sound of them in my head, the texture of them in my mouth. My love of language was encouraged and nurtured by my parents. My favorite gift, even as a child, has always been a book. I taught myself to read prior to starting school and would correct the adults who tried to hasten bedtime by skipping pages during the story ritual.
The English language is vast, with nearly unlimited word choices. And yet, as a society that fears and denies death, “died” has become an unmentionable four-letter word. I struggle and resist the impulse to tidy death by using euphemisms. According to dictionary.com, a euphemism is “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.” While I realize that people are uncomfortable with discussing death, and that offering condolences through euphemisms permits them an escape, I confess to deep resentment.
My mother did not pass away, pass over, or merely pass. She died. Although I have lost many things, such as socks, keys, a pair of cherished earrings, I most assuredly did not lose my mother. To lose something implies to misplace it, a carelessness which is offensive when considering family members. I did not plop my mother on a bench at the mall and forget where I left her.
Frogs croak. My mother died.
Gamblers cash in their chips. My mother died.
I am relieved that my mother didn’t buy the farm, as that would complicate probate even further. She only kicked a bucket when she stubbed her toe in the garage.
She did not fight a battle; she died with dignity and grace, the same way she lived. She most certainly did not go to a better place, or return home. She remained in the loving home she had carefully made for her family for six decades. And after she drew one final, shallow breath, she died.