There are many euphemisms for “die,” “dead,” “death,” although some are more popular than others. My least favorite ones are variations of “lose,” such as “loss” or “lost,” perhaps because they refer to the second or third scariest possibility for a parent.
When I was 11 years old, one of my little sisters somehow became separated from our family and was lost at an amusement park. I don’t know how long it took before someone found her and Security contacted my parents to let them know she was safe. I can tell you that my parents were frantic, and the time between the realization that she was missing until they were contacted that she was found seemed like a very, very long time. Having a child disappear is torture.
Yet people often refer to Brandon as if he suddenly disappeared. Some say, “I’m so sorry about the loss of your son.” Another version is, “I heard you lost your son.”
Yes, yes, I know these people mean well. I also know that many parents don’t mind these euphemisms. But what is it in our culture that makes it so difficult to speak the word “die”?
We did not lose Brandon. He was right in front of us when he took his last breath. I was with him at the crematorium. We may not know exactly where the essence of who he is went, but he wasn’t lost. Brandon died. Brandon is dead. We do feel the loss of his presence in our lives, and his death has created a gaping hole in the fabric of our family. It isn’t that our fabric isn’t holding strongly together, it’s that this hole has disrupted its pattern and has taken some of its beauty. There is no patch able to camouflage a gash of this proportion.
Then there are the other “lose” euphemisms in reference to cancer, such as “I was sorry to hear Brandon lost his battle with cancer.” But if cancer is a war then it is a war with one’s own cells. Can one win or lose to oneself? If cancer “wins,” then it also “loses” since the death of the body means the cancer cells die too. And how can we consider that a person lost to a disease if he refused to let that disease control him – who he is and what he did?
I hate the f’ing cell disease that took Brandon from our daily lives. I miss his hugs. I miss his reassuring, calming, “don’t sweat the small stuff” presence. I miss his mannerisms, which seemed a reflection of his spirit and body interacting. I especially miss that he can’t be here to physically watch his daughter grow up and enjoy the love he shared with his wife.
Still, Brandon didn’t lose, and we didn’t lose Brandon. He died. He’s dead. No euphemisms can change that or lessen the tears that flow every time I re-remember that fact – a fact that my mind still can’t completely comprehend.