“We doctors, ” she says, “are just as terrified of death as any other human being scurrying around this little planet. And like any other human, we use euphemism to shield us from that fear.”
But doctors, she explains, are more constrained by their profession, in which the euphemism of choice is “Expired” — as in magazine subscriptions, old passports, and milk cartons.
And then she tells about the first time she heard the expression “passed” — from an intern who came up to New York from below the Mason-Dixon line, where, turns out, it’s as common as, well, as death itself.
Passing what? Makes me think of a once much-admired poem called Crossing the Bar (no, not the law exam) in which Tennyson means exactly the same thing as the euphemism “passing”, although he takes the metaphor and term from sailing.
Growing up in an overwhelmingly Jewish area of Brooklyn, I, like Ofri, had never heard that expression until well into adult years. In Brooklyn we pretty much heard either “dead” or “Sssssh”. Living now in New England, though, I hear it a lot, it isn’t only Southern, and I think it’s odd every time I hear it.
The anecdote and poem that Ofri ends with is both an illumination, and a joy (you may need a little attitude adjustment, but take my word for it, it’s more a delight than a downer). Do read the essay! Here’s a second chance for you at the link, if you passed it up the first time.