Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Reading

When you’re my age, you read the Obituaries.  I’ll guarantee it – ask your grandmother.  At first it’s just to see how old the dead people were – well, I’m older than that! --or -- well, maybe I can get to be that old too!  Then it gets interesting (would it count as sociology?) to see what the survivors find to say about the dear departed (though when I complimented Simon Pontin on his wife’s obituary, he said cheerfully “She wrote it.”)  Then you start looking for people you know, but after a while most people you know are already dead.
     What struck me in today’s death notices was the phrases used instead of the word “died”. Not a single one of today's 30 just plain up and died.   My attention was first arrested by one who  “Slipped the Surly Bonds of Earth”  and Google confirmed my suspicion that was a quote – poem by a pilot who died in World War II.  Others today are less literary.  “Passed on” and “Passed away” are pretty popular, and a few people simply "passed."  Today we do have “Angels took Jane home”.  Several in this group passed away “peacefully” and one “at home surrounded by her family.”  Very nice indeed.  One died unexpectedly.  No age given, but he was married 54 years, so that puts him at least in his mid 70s.   There are worse ways to go.
     Almost everyone listed today was “predeceased” by various relatives.  It’s not that I’m a fuddy-duddy about new words  -- I’m perfectly happy, for example, to friend and un-friend people.  But come on, isn’t “predeceased” about the ugliest word ever coined?
     The cheery sailor at the top of this page survived to be 94, but he didn’t get the little American flag icon one sees increasingly these days, as the ten million who served in WW II die off.  Vito Sabetta, down toward the bottom of the page, did get the flag.  His obituary lists his relatives, but all it tells us about his adventures during 101 years on this earth is one single thing.  Speaking of
D-Day, as we have been --
"He fought on Omaha Beach."


  1. "Predeceased" is a legal word used in wills. That's where I remember seeing it before. (I'm only 70.)

  2. Obviously Rochester has different obit stylings from New York. The Times doesn't provide flags, and avoids those coy locutions. I highly recommend its obituary section...

    Keep on keeping on, Edith Lank....

  3. I've been writing obituaries for family and friends, upon the survivors' request, for the past several years now (no obituary writers on my local paper's staff any more, and I suspect not on yours either; hence the wide variety of synonyms for "died"). However, I use "died" only; so far, no survivor has objected.

    And, yes, I have already written obituaries for both my husband (at his request) and myself, to be tweaked as necessary once all the facts are available.

    Finally, any student of euphemisms for "died" would be well advised to study Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch.

    1. Hurray for you A. Marie, for having the gumption to use "died". It's not an offensive or vulgar word. I really hate "passed". That is something you do on the highway in the fast lane, IMHO. : ) CMS

  4. Obituaries provided a source of interest for my Mom over the years. Errors were made with her brief, paid obituary. Another surprise was that the funeral home handled the payment to the paper for the obituary.