Thinking Out Loud

December 14, 2013

Avoiding the Idea of Death

Filed under: writing — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:47 am

He is Away - She is AwayIn the days following the death of Nelson Mandela, there was talk of the South African people being a society that doesn’t like to “speak of death.”  A month earlier, I remember hearing or reading Skye Jethani speak of the “myth of continuity;” the idea being that we tend to think things are just going to continue just the way they are. Maybe that’s why stories of typhoons in The Philippines or tsunamis in Japan upset us: They not only are devastating stories but they devastate our thinking; they disrupt the paradigm.

It was in the middle of all this that we encountered these particular sympathy cards.  Do they have these where you live?  Your loved one hasn’t died, they are merely “away.” Is this anything like when I was in Grade Four and my friend Frank was “away” for two weeks with bronchitis? Not exactly. These are cards you send when your precious friend or close relative is “no longer with us.” This takes the phrase “passed away” — which I notice has recently been abbreviated to simply “passed” — and provides the “away” part instead.

So it’s not just the South Africans. Death sucks. Better to be away than to die, I guess.


  1. In the movie, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, a somewhat obscure film detailing the lives of a couple of characters that appear in Shakespeare’s Hamlet for a few short moments, this soliloquy is birthed:

    “Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one, a moment, in childhood, when it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. It must have been shattering stamped into one’s memory. And yet I can’t remember it. It never occurred to me at all. We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it, before we know that there are words, out we come, bloodied and squalling … with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass, there’s only one direction and time is its only measure.”

    Nancy and I have always found the above scripted rumination most intriguing.

    So here you show these almost ludicrous card messages, “Away”, as if we’ve locked ourselves into the thought that, we’re all just going to make an easy transition to the next life which somehow will catch up with this one, or vice versa. Does anyone really take the time to explore the depth of death? This, without a doubt, proves to us that ‘No one comes to Me (Jesus) unless the Father draws Him’. Until God shines a light on all things such as the depth of life, meaning and death, our thoughts about the ‘next world’ are fleeting because it’s a subject to be ignored or at best, trifled with in a way to assuage our nervousness during those uncomfortable moments our mortality crosses our minds.

    As Always,
    Flagrant Regard

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — December 15, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

  2. […] Avoiding the Idea of Death Paul Wilkinson spots a new trend in sympathy cards. We seem to have gone from “died” to “passed away” to “passed” and now simply to “away.” […]

    Pingback by Worldview | HeadHeartHand Blog — December 17, 2013 @ 6:16 am

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