by Bil Aulenbach

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I Want to Die

I don’t want to die now—maybe later. Right now, I’m having too much fun. In this blog post, I want to talk about the words I want used when my heart and brain stop working. I want people to say, “Bil died!” Please don’t say, “Bil passed.” I don’t like that word being used to describe what I was born to do—die.

Some thirty or forty years ago, people started saying that when a person died, they “passed.” Whenever I hear that, I always want to ask, “What did they pass?” But I don’t. It could be misconstrued, and folks might become angry with me, so I keep quiet, which is not my strong suit.

I can only guess why people use that expression. My first thought is that it sounds so much softer than coming right out with the hard truth: Bil died! Bil is dead! Deader than a doornail. Some might see that as crass, perhaps too direct. So, now folks seem to find it easier to just say, “He passed.”

My years of experience tell me that most people dislike talking or even thinking about death. It makes them uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons. The word passing seems to take some of the discomfort away.

Many religions believe in an afterlife, so when they say a person passed, what they really mean is that person went from this world to the next. So, the person didn’t really die. They just moved to a new and much better place.

One religion makes the idea of “passing” extremely attractive by suggesting to testosterone-filled young men that after they have blown themselves to little bits and pieces for Allah, seventy-seven virgins will be waiting for them on the other side of the curtain. Of course, my first thought is, what good are seventy-seven virgins when you are in bits and pieces?

I think in Christian culture, those people who use the word passing are really saying that the dead are going to a heaven, UpThere (wherever that is), to spend eternity with a God who lives there with his Son, who is sitting in a soft lounging chair, or maybe even on a throne, on the right side of his Father. Everything is white except for a little gold here and there, with music (mostly classical), harpists, and tons of people just lounging around.

Unfortunately, it’s the twenty-first century—the space age, the information age—where anyone who has the capacity, ability, and permission to think, realizes that the image of a heaven up there doesn’t make an ounce of sense. The only thing up or out there are two to four trillion (that’s twelve zeroes) galaxies.

The bottom line is that the when and where of my death is unknown, but the one thing I know for sure is that I’m going to die. When it happens, I want there to be a sense of finality: Bil is dead, he’s not here, he’s gone.

The Old Testament (Genesis 3:19) says it this way: “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” To me, the idea of an afterlife is a total fantasy perpetuated by religions. I like the idea of going back to my roots—dust.

But my remains are going to hang around for a while. Annie and I are giving our bodies to a group called Anatomy Gifts Registry, which will sell any useable parts (what might those be on an eighty-five-year-old man?) and donate our skeletons to some medical school. Our brains are going to the University of California, Irvine, Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, where someone is going to try to figure out why this brain wrote so many blog posts. I like this idea!

What word do you use? Dead or passed? Why?

 

Image courtesy of ~My aim is true~ (CC BY 2.0)

7 Responses to I Want to Die

  • I absolutely hate passed. As an RN, I see nothing frightening about death, I’ve seen many. Passes what, a final exam, another car on the road, a friend on the street? I make them clarify (though not at work).

  • Depends on to whom I am speaking and how they typically respond to events. No need in pushing my thoughts on them when they are grieving. I could not care less how they reference my ‘crossing the Jordan’. I’ll be drawing pictures in the sand as the old Gospel song tells us.

  • I completely agree that “passed” is such a lukewarm word. Dying is an active process and a guaranteed part of life. I like the strong and real word “died”. I want to be remembered as someone who lived well and died well.

  • I am having fun with this one….was getting new driving license this week and was asked if I wanted to donate organs? I laughed and said if they can use my 80 yr old organs …fine! Like your organ donor idea better. I use ” passed” or “died” based on the perceived person’s outlook that I am talking to…..

  • I do not like the word “passed” either. However, my perspective is just a bit different. When people die, their body and their “personhood” or character die. However, I believe energy is infinite and that it does not die. Thus, the question is, what happens to the energy that existed in the person that died? Where does that energy go? I do not know and, to me, it is not all that important because once I am dead, my personal curiosity goes too. I accept the fact that I will never know the answer.

  • Your candor about Death and “dust”. Our certainties. Recalls Carl Sagan. A lot of our “dust” is from Space. https://www.space.com/35276-humans-made-of-stardust-galaxy-life-elements.html . So there’s that too!

  • The reward of living a good life is a good life. What could be better than that?

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