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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Gone, Expired, Passed

There is something bugging me. Not a big thing, not an important thing. It's just that I bristle when I hear that someone is gone or has expired or has passed. Whatever happened to plain, old died?

For example, a lot of people say something like, "My sister is gone." Well, where has she gone? To the store? To a PTA meeting? To an island on vacation? And, most importantly, when will she return?

And how about the word expired? Milk expires. The due date for a library book expires. And the damn parking ticket expires before you make it back to your car. But a person?

Then there are those who say something like, "My father passed." Again, the same kind of questions: Did he pass the turnoff when driving to visit relatives? Did he pass his empty plate to his wife? Did he pass gas?

Some guy named Simon Davis actually scoured obituaries in all 50 states and found that "passed away" was used in 32.5 percent of all obituaries and topped the national list.

So, I did a little research myself to find out where these euphemisms come from. Take, for example, passed or passed away. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the term was coined in 15th century England, when most people would have believed that the departing soul of a dead person was a literal physical event; it passed from this world to the afterlife to be with God. Comforting.

I suppose we use these euphemisms as a more gentle way to deliver the news that someone has died. It is a way to provide some comfort, to soften the blow. Maybe passed, expired, and gone aren't so bad after all.

I mean, just take a look at some of these:

Resting in Peace (What happens when it's not so peaceful?)

Departed (Again, what is the arrival date?)

Gave up the ghost (One of my favorites)

Kicked the bucket (Not to be used to describe your dear uncle or parents' best friend)

Breathed her last (So Victorian)

Met his Maker (Pinocchio?)

In a better place (I'm not sure about that one. I can think of a ton of better places.)

I suppose I'm a bit over the top about all this because my husband and I are in the process of rewriting our wills, trusts, powers of attorney--all that stuff. I'll be damned if my cousin in California is getting the ruby and sapphire ring that I had willed to her many years ago. We're not even talking to one another. And why had I decided years ago that I'd leave a pile of dough to my neighbor who passed, expired, (fill in the blank) a year after I wrote my first trust?

It's not easy thinking about all of this stuff. It puts our mortality front and center. But, hey, the sun just came out on what could have been yet another dreary late-November day, I lost a pound over the weekend, and I cleaned out all of my bookshelves and gave away hundreds of books. . . dozens of brown grocery bags. I listened to my first audiobook on my new JBuds, brought my financial ledger up to date (I was six months behind), and survived a strenuous dance class without having to see a physical therapist.

Life is good. And when I kick the bucket and go to meet my Maker, tell everyone that I'm in a better place and am resting in peace.


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