No matter what language we use, death is a sticky topic for us humans: especially in common speech. Reporters can use that sterile, icy word to describe the passing of a celebrity, but we mostly avoid it in polite conversation.
Your cat can die. Your phone’s battery can die. Your computer’s network connection can die.
But grandma? Grandma doesn’t die: she passes away or passes on.
Many cultures are uncomfortable with death. The ancient Egyptians simply said said someone journeyed west. That might not seem so bad in China, where the journey west was great fun for the Monkey King. Chinese people prefer head off to a whole new world! It’s more exciting than Japan, where dear grandma simply ends up lost.
World-over, you would be hard-pressed to find a culture more terrified of death and dying than modern America. Every doctor’s office in the US has a wall of pamphlets ready to introduce the odd new idea.
When an American’s number is up, he just takes the big sleep. If he’s not ready to move on up, he will go out kicking.
Americans like to kick a lot of things, especially buckets and cans. The less aggressive prefer to kiss the dust before they’ve left the building for a little slumber.
If they’re hungry, they can bite the big one or bite the dust. Queen fans seem to be the biggest on biting. I’m guessing the Eagles’ listeners prefer gambling: they cash in their chips before checking out to go climb the Golden Staircase – or, if I may nod to Led Zepplin, pay the piper and climb the Stairway to Heaven.
And what does an American do once he’s up there?
Well, after it’s curtains, he’ll be cooking for the Kennedys — if he’s a good enough cook, he might get a chance to join the angels in the sweet hereafter. Regardless of his culinary skills, he can rest assured that he will be joining the majority.
And we don’t like to think about this, but not everyone gets to climbs the staircase. Some people have to walk the downward path and spend eternity in the dread abode.
Every now and then, one unlucky guy simply fades away and ends up on the road to nowhere. If you one day find yourself stuck with nowhere to go, I suggest you roll over and give Byron’s dreamless sleep a try — it sounds like a good chance to get in a few eternal yawns.
If sleeping and staircases aren’t for you, the gangsters say you can give up the ghost and go sleep with the fishes — usually this one requires some assistance to pull off. If there’s no time to get a pair of cement shoes, you may just end up six feet under — but that’s a great place to be if you’re going into the fertilizer business!
However you choose to fade out, it seems a great chance for one last party. I’ve never been a fan of formal-wear, but traitors don’t seem to mind. They go to a necktie party when they die. Serial killers get ride the lightning – I saw that one while it was under construction at Cedar Point and it looked like a coaster fan’s wet dream.
When they’re not kidnapping Korean fishermen for ransom, pirates cover a lot of ground both here and in the hereafter. Sometimes they take a long rest on the Fiddler’s Green, but if they haven’t had enough briny sea-air, they can flag down the Flying Dutchman for eternal adventure.
The unlucky ones get dragged down to Davy Jones’s Locker.
In this modern age of science, computer geeks have one of the most creative ways to get exported to a flat file — they’re formatted. I suppose it works because, these days, most of them are Hindus.
Writers are less lucky. We tend to end up lost in translation after moving into upper-management. After that, we just go permanently out of print.
Almost every one of these adventures sounds preferable to plain vanilla death.
Yet in spite of how gaily they jest about the next great adventure, Americans squirm when someone casually mentions the “D” word.
When you get down to it, death is just a part of life, and it’s one most aren’t prepared to face. But we have to face it eventually. George Carlin said death is the one thing that’s truly democratic: everyone gets it once.
But I think I have a solution to our departing dilemma: a word so when it’s time for each of us to express-mail our soul to the god of our choice, none needs bat an eye. It’s perfect, because despite that last god reference, it works for atheists too.
Doesn’t that sound nice? “Grandpa was recalled while he was on the table. He won’t be joining us for Christmas.”
Imagine the dialogue between a nurse and a man who’s wife died in labor. “Mr. Smith, I’m sorry to inform you your wife’s labor had complications. She was recalled.”
Factories can recall bad products: some even recall old products. Car companies do it all the time — especially Firestone, famous for its tires that explode after 500 miles.
Let’s face it, products deteriorate with age, and some are way too dangerous to be allowed on the road: look no further than any 60-year-old granny behind the wheel of her Cadillac STS Child Shredder if you need an example.
So lets all try to bring this word into common use. It’s sterile enough for the politically correct, and it’s accurate.