If Something Happens to Me (Avoiding the “D” Word)
The other day I was talking to one of my sons and I said something like “If something happens to me”. I told him something I wanted him to do in the event of my demise.
The older I get the more references I make to my eventual demise. I really don’t know if my demise is eventual, imminent, or impending. I’m an old man – but even the young don’t know. All I know is we’re all given so many days on this earth and none of us know how many days we have — which at least makes it interesting. It would be awful – for me at least – to know the date of my demise. I mean I think I’d waste too much time focusing on that date or putting things off if the date was in the distant future.
One thing is for sure, I’m an old man and I don’t have a “distant future”. As I’ve said, my demise is eventual, impending, or imminent and I can only hope it’s still in the eventual category.
But what I want to talk about today is our use of euphemisms when it comes to our own demise or the demise of others close to us. We go to extreme measures to avoid the use of the words dead, died, death, and dying unless we’re talking about strangers, those we don’t like, or mass casualties.
For instance: 80 Dead in Yesterday’s Earthquake
If Aunt Millie died yesterday, she is not dead. She did not die, She “passed away” or “passed on”. If 60 people died in a plane crash yesterday, trust me, they’re dead.
So, why do we avoid using the words dead, dying, death, and died, when referring to the death of those close to us? I don’t mean to sound crass, but if Aunt Millie passed away she’s certainly dead. Deader than a doornail even if we say she passed away.
I do it, you do it, and most of us do it. And most of us, when referring to our own eventual death never say… “Hey Mac, when I’m dead, you can have my riding lawnmower…” We say “Hey Mac, if something happens to me you can have my riding lawnmower”.
When you think about it, “If something happens to me” is a rather nebulous thing to say. Lots of things could happen to me:
I could have a root canal.
I could win the lottery.
I could get my foot caught in the blade of a lawnmower
I could win a fruit basket at the local Moose Club.
I could have a new grandchild.
I could get stuck in the snow.
I could get struck by lightning and survive.
I could lose the rest of my hair.
I could eat some food tainted with botulism.
I could get bitten by a rattlesnake.
I could win the lottery.
I could fall through the ice on Sandusky Bay and get hypothermia.
So we don’t really mean “if something happens to me” – something is always happening to me. When we say “if something should happen to me”, we mean… If (when) I die. When I’m dead. When I’m dead and gone.
We have always tried to avoid the words dead or died. Here are some euphemisms we use in place of the “D” words…
Kicked the bucket
Bought a one-way ticket
Had his or her ticket pulled
Bit the dust
Bought the farm
Shuffled off this mortal coil (Shakespeare fans)
Was called home
Resting in peace
Pushing up daisies
Is in a better place
Six feet under
Met his/her maker
With the angels
Gone to Heaven
You can say he or she did any of those things, but no matter whether they croaked, went to meet their maker, are now with the angels, slipped away, pushing up daisies – he or she is still dead. They didn’t pass away, they did not fade away, they did not bite the dust: They died.
But for some reason, I say (more often these days)… ‘If something happens to me, please do this or that… or you can have this or that, or please make sure that this or that is done. Everyone knows when someone says, “If something should happen to me” they mean… “When I die” or “When I’m dead”. But no one likes to say “when I die” or “when I’m dead” because it has such dark or happy connotations – depending on how one lived his or her life. It would be much nicer to shuffle off the mortal coil knowing one was headed to Heaven than if one were taking the elevator down to the ferry to cross the River Styx.
But how do you know for sure? I’m not going to assume anything when it comes to eternity, so I’m going to keep on saying “If something happens to me” instead of “when I croak”, “when I kick the bucket”, “when I buy the farm”… or “when I die”.
So, if something happens to me you can have my…