As I was driving to Pets Remembered this morning, I was listening to a news report on the radio. The announcer acknowledged that folk singer/activist Pete Seeger “passed”, then went on to the next story about a piece of legislation that ”passed”. Hmmm . . . I find it rather curious that the term “passed/passing” has become synonymous with death, dying, and died. This seems to be a recent phenomenon and it speaks to me of our aversion to accepting the reality of death.
Although Skip and I have been dealing directly with death for decades - Skip as a funeral director and myself as a pastor and then hospice chaplain – now as the creators and owners of Pets Remembered Cremation Service, the death of beloved family pets is what we encounter numerous times a day. Therefore, my curiosity about the prevalence of the term passed rather than death comes about because it’s a constant theme for us.
I can only speculate, but I believe it’s easier for us to think of those we love, both humans and pets, as passing on to another dimension rather than dying and ceasing to exist. Over thirty years ago I read Ernest Becker’s Denial of Death, which is definitely a sobering book, but it’s true that many of us do everything we can do to deny the reality of death. Even when I was working within a hospice program, it was surprising to me how many patients, family, and friends had still not accepted the fact that treatment could not cure or extend the patient’s life.
There’s no way around it, though, whether we prefer the term passed or died, saying goodbye to those we love is painful.