There is a memorial garden in my town. It isn’t a cemetery, oh no. Nothing that gauche. There aren’t even gravestones. There are little metal vases to hold bouquets of fake flowers. So there is to the eye a field of flowers. Perhaps you have such a place too and haven’t even thought about it.
Have you noticed that people don’t die anymore? They “pass on” or “transition” or are “fallen” if they are military. Even more euphemistically we might say they have “kicked the bucket” or “bought the farm”.
Why have we sanitized death? It isn’t a reality anymore. We no longer think about it in a real way. We no longer see it. We are divorced from it.
Our family members die in hospitals, alone or with strangers. They no longer or rarely die at home if it is an expected death. Their bodies are taken away by other strangers, who wash them and clothe them and lay them out. They put makeup on them so they look “natural”, because it is important for us to have a good memory of death. They look peaceful, because that is what we want to think of when we think of death.
We’ve done the same with birth. It is far more common these days for a woman to give birth in a hospital than at home. This wasn’t always the way. Birth is now treated as a medical condition rather than a life event. Women are treated as passive observers and no longer participants in this experience. It is something that happens to them rather than something they participate in. Sure, there are some home births and some midwives, but they are seen as the exception rather than the rule.
Ignorance causes pain. The more you know about something the easier it is to deal with. The more we ignore our own reality of birth and death, the more anxiety we feel.
I am for everyone breaking the taboo about talking about important life events, and for being aware of the lies we tell ourselves.
I wonder what it is about the English language that we can’t bother to
actually say what we mean. When we go to the bathroom we more often use the toilet than the tub. It isn’t a bath that we need.
I’d never thought about it until I went to England and asked where the bathroom was. The clerk looked at me funny and said they call it the toilet. I winced. “Toilet” sounds dirty, vulgar. It is accurate, but so gauche. But he had a point. We do this all the time.
We have “correctional centers” instead of prisons.
We have “medical centers” instead of hospitals.
Newspeak is here, right now. We don’t even fight it. It is time to notice how we are lying to ourselves.