Some former celebrity died the other day. Don’t ask me who as I’ve already forgotten. But his death was enough to bring out the Facebook funeral whores, wailing that it was so unjust and that he gave so much and that the world would not be the same with his passing.
He passed. He has passed. His passing was peaceful. I hope when I pass that I pass just as well as he passed. Pass me the salt.
So many words, so many ways to avoid the verb ‘to die’.
Here’s what happens when a former famous person shuffles off this mortal coil, and particularly if they died an unspectacular death which was entirely related to old age. People hear the news, and then they immediately associate this event with their own mortal timeline. They compare their current age with the age of the dead celebrity, then they work out how old the celebrity was when they were really into him all those years ago, then they compare the two and come up with an uncomfortable number of years which is their approximate remaining time on this earth.
The final step is to immediately banish these foreboding thoughts to the brain’s wastepaper basket while they turn to social media and write heartfelt remarks about the great passing that has just occurred. About how much it has moved them. Like, they are literally moved right now.
Passing makes death seem like going outside to put the rubbish in the bin. Passing sounds like something that you could do on the weekend with your mates and still turn up to work on Monday where you could regale everyone around the coffee machine with tales of your weekend warrior daring-do. Passing sounds like something that isn’t scary at all and it won’t even affect your beards or neck tattoos.
Passing is what we say when we really have lost our religion.
The guy didn’t pass; he died. It most probably was messy. You lose a lot of fluids coming into this world and you lose a hell of a lot more when you depart. Very few people will give a shit about you when you’re gone, but that’s okay because very few people give a shit about you now. And in any case, it’s cold comfort when your ashes may be sprinkled on someone’s morning toast.
A platoon of Australian soldiers hit the shore at Gallipoli on a cold clear morning in 1915. They make it up the beach but one of their group is missing.
Harry jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Back there. He passed.”
If by passing you mean he had his head blown clean off his shoulders, then fine; he passed.
It’s the Boomer generation whose fault this is, of course. Because they are the ones who are starting to do all the passing. This really kicked off when David Bowie died last year. Christ knows what will happen when Mick Jagger snuffs it, let alone that vampire guitarist of his. The Boomers really don’t want this to happen because that wasn’t part of the deal. They weren’t supposed to get old, let alone die. Sorry, I mean ‘pass’.
In Italy when folks get old they go back to church. Something about needing to get their affairs in order. They start taking the whole mass thing rather seriously. Sure it’s a tad hypocritical, but at least they make the effort. But the Boomers just seem to think that if they change the vocabulary then somehow they’ll change the nature of the event. It might happen to other people but not to them. Because they’re special, and the universe was really looking out for them, right? Right?
If you never believed in God or abandoned religion years ago, things begin to look a bit tricky as you approach the time of dying. Quasi-religions such as environmentalism and new age nonsense don’t seem to offer much spiritual comfort when the doc informs you that you have the big C. But the Boomers infected the Church much like they infected everything else; or rather they failed to protect the treasures that had been passed down to them by previous generations.
If you can convince yourself that passing is nothing more than a weekend away on a team building exercise then anything is possible.