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  • Writer's pictureRick Zumpano

Did He “Pass Away?”

In order to soften the blow of the meaning of certain words, we have learned to use euphemisms. For example, a man does not commit adultery, but he “has an affair.” A woman does not lie, but she “stretches the truth” or “fibs a little bit.” A person doesn’t sin, but they “make mistakes.” In using such phrases, we try to make things seem not so bad. This isn’t always a good thing.

One euphemism which we all seem to use is when a person dies we say that they passed away. Years ago, I used this phrase, but I have stopped using it (sometimes it still slips out) because I think it is misleading and uncharacteristic of the reality of the situation, and suggests an end of the line condition.

Here’s my point: What does it mean to pass away? You might say: We all know it means to die. Maybe, but what does it suggest? Away where? Beyond the sky? Away to Never-Never Land? Into some mystical somewhere? Into nothingness? Away into non-existence? To me this phrase must have been coined by atheists or pure materialists because it indicates there is nothing more.

There are two phrases which I have begun using (euphemisms if you will) which conform with reality. One is “passed on.” The individual who has died has passed on into the next life. The other is “crossed over.” The person who is deceased has crossed over into another dimension. These work a lot better for me.

The scriptures, especially the New Testament, repeatedly use the word sleep (asleep, sleeping, etc.) to refer to those who have died. We have studied in one of our classes about whether this is to be taken literally or would be simply a euphemism for death. Even Jesus spoke of Lazarus being asleep. It’s worth your while to get out your concordance and read and ponder these passages.

Words have meaning. Softening the intensity of the meaning of some words in certain situations may be desirable, but we still need to be careful to use words which conform to reality.

><> Jeff

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