Anyone who knows me well, is probably all too aware of my dislike of the common phrase, "passed away." My long-time White Horse Inn colleague, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, has been correcting me of this habit long enough that his words of wisdom finally took root, and now I am as adamant about giving up the term as he is.
Our producer, Shane Rosenthal, recently passed along this reminder of how our culture cannot deal with death, and why "passed away," completely evades the real issue--that death is brutal, ugly, and stems from the curse.
The word "death" is a strong and solid word that does not blush or flinch, calling life's terminus by its first name, without apology. But most people euphemize death with the softer phrase "passed away". To pass away suggests a gentle and painless transition from one state to another, like chilled water passing imperceptibly into ice. Thereby words conceal from thoughts the horrors of violent accidents and the wracking agonies of terminal illness, as if everyone, instead of only a lucky few, died peacefully in his sleep. And where we peacefully pass is "away", a nebulous word that does not suggest a termination, but neither specifies a destination. It is a kind of leaving off, a gesture of open-endedness, an ellipsis at sentence's end. It is, accordingly, the perfect word for the skeptical yet sentimental modern mind, which cannot accept annihilation, nor easily believe in immortality. "Passed away" allows vague hope without dogma, as if to say, "He has gone somewhere else, please don't ask for details."
Shane found this on Brian Jay Stanley's blog, aphorisms and paradoxes