A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – Gain true peace of mind by prearranging your funeral plans

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on July 03, 2019 with No Comments

Shakespeare wrote these words and included them in his romantic tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.”  Written today, with our fear of death and dying, he may have let them pass away, or depart from this earth, made them gone, lost, or slipped away.  He may have written that they gave up the ghost, or kicked the bucket or went to be with the Lord.

So, just like a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so are all of these euphemisms arriving at the same fate … death. It seems that so many people today use euphemisms for death and dying as a way to protect someone, and nobody wants to be looked at as being too blunt when they speak of a loss of a loved one. However, death is death.  This is not said flippantly, but more as an expression that is confusing to nobody.

One of the first real steps to learning how to live without that special person is to face the finality of death which should start with the words you use to describe it.  It may seem self-serving to hear a cemetery person say that a funeral with visitation and viewing is important as a means of acknowledging the demise of a person, but it is a fact.  There is nothing that compares with seeing a loved one lying in state as proof that the person is truly dead and not coming home again.  Correction:  touching human remains after the spirit is gone is absolute proof that death is real.

I attended a funeral not so long ago in which the grandfather died.  I heard an adult talking to a young child in a euphemism.  “We lost your Grandpa on Tuesday.  He was a wonderful man.”  The child, too young to appreciate the gentle approach this adult used to explain that Grandpa died, innocently answered, “Let’s go find him.”   A child’s understanding of such a serious issue is to take the words of the well-meaning adult literally.  Children usually lack the experience of death and thus, want to go find Grandpa.

Even before a death occurs, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers tend to dance around an inevitable approaching death by saying things like “she is failing to respond” or “treatment is futile,” or “not doing well” all the way up to explaining that your loved one has “expired.”  There is never an intention to hide the truth.  But, who really wants to be the bearer of such news?   Medical personnel oftentimes convey bad news to a patient or his or her family by being tactful and gentle.  This approach is usually an attempt at being compassionate.  It may even be appropriate and helpful for some families, but, for others, it may prevent them from gaining a full understanding of the situation.

Euphemisms may sometimes hide the reality of the situation right at a time that those dealing with an impending death need to understand what is happening.  Disguising the severity of a person’s condition may make it more difficult when making end of life decisions when the use of a euphemism suggests hope where hope no longer exists.

Imagine a scenario that could be approached in two different ways.  For instance, one approach might be, “I’m sorry, but Mary is not doing as well as we hoped.  We would like to make sure she is as comfortable as possible by giving her this medication.  Is that agreeable to you?”  A second approach might go like this:  “I am sorry to tell you this but Mary is not doing very well.  In fact, she is showing medical signs that she is likely to die in the next couple of days.  We would like to make her final hours as pain free as possible.   We would like your permission to give her this medication?”

The first way does not really tell the story of what all medical opinions point to, that Mary will be dying soon.  This approach offers hope where hope does not exist. The second approach tells pretty much the same story but with a definite conclusion of the medical professionals that Mary will be dying soon and some doctors carry it to the nthdegree by suggesting that you think about making final arrangements for Mary.

I recently saw a study on-line about approaches to use to inform families of a severe medical condition that has only death as an outcome.  The researchers found that, despite the grief that people feel after hearing direct terminology, family members preferred having more knowledge and a better understanding of just how ill their loved one really was.

Euphemisms may be helpful when talking in general about death, and preparing for the inevitable.  This is especially true for those individuals “who won’t talk about it”.  I am familiar with a husband and wife that are elderly. The husband has cancer and the wife is closing in on dementia.  They are “insurance rich” to the highest degree, but she will not talk about making arrangements.  Money is not the issue in any way.  She just will not face the fact that death is closer to her doorstep than she is willing to acknowledge.   But what if she dies before her husband?  How fair is her unwillingness to face reality to their children?  The only one that knows exactly what they want and how much to spend is each individual.

In cases such as this, the children may use phrases such as passing on or meeting your maker as they patiently sit with their parents to discuss this very personal subject.  The worst time to be making final arrangements that include the type of funeral service desired, what cemetery to use, burial or cremation etc. is immediately following one’s death.  Waiting means wondering for the survivors, and hoping that they do what mom or dad really wanted.  For some, money may be an issue that means they will do less than they would have preferred or more than would have been desired by the now “dead” person.

So, although this author couldn’t carry Shakespear’s quill pen, I encourage all who read this article to understand that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and regardless of what words you choose to describe death, death will take us all within the next 100 or so years. It is hoped that we all live a long and healthy life and spend many years smelling the sweet scent of roses, and cool air after a spring rain, and the fresh smell of a new baby.  And the best way that I can think of to forget about making funeral or cemetery arrangements is to meet with one of our family service counselors and learn how you can gain true peace of mind by prearranging so the rest of your life can be spent without thinking of the subject until God calls you home.

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