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  1. 1

    Beth Shirley

    Thank you for this – it is beautiful and true and so needed to be said. We need to bring back language to where it speaks to truth and authentic emotions, rather than gleaning over them.

  2. 2


    I heard this morning over e-news that Michelle Obama said: ” Kader Asmal passed “. This was before I read your column, but at the time I thought that she either thinks that he is NOT dead as he had passed by, or that she perhaps saw his ghost passing by……..however this must be Americanism: by leaving out the ‘away’ it’s likely to sound softer, less harsh……..Suzette vdM.

  3. 3

    Jean Racine

    It’s specifically a black Americanism, Suzette. Incidentally, since moving to SA, I’ve found a similar expression amongst elderly black South Africans: saying “So-and so is late”.

  4. 4

    in other words - Caryn

    Thanks Suzette and Jean, 
    What a perfect example. I remember reading Alexander McCall Smith’s Mma Ramotswe series, set in Botswana, and all the characters referred to the dead as being late. For what? It is very much a cultural thing. But it doesn’t help me deal with the reality of death.
    The death of Kader Asmal on the same day as I wrote this piece made the gaps Death leaves feel even wider.

  5. 5

    in other words - Caryn

    Yes, Beth, as my 5-yr-old son says, let’s call a spade a spade. And let’s call death death. 
    It feels much more real.

  6. 6

    Ann Donnelly

    I think it depends on your view of the afterlife.  If, like me, you believe that our sojourn on this earth is only a prelude to something greater;  you do, in fact, “pass” when you breathe your last earthly breath.  You’re on your way to the next part of the journey, babe!

    And I think Mary Frye’s words of comfort are intended to portray that the MEMORY of the departed person lives on, even though their physical presence has gone.

    It’s a sensitive subject and is better dealt with kindly, methinks.

  7. 7

    Caryn Gootkin

    I hear you. I am feeling somewhat less angry now, a month after her death. 
    I envy people whose belief system gives them some solace when dealing with death. And you are probably correct that Ms Frye was referring to legacy of the person who died.  
    However, the rant was quite cathartic for me and I have no doubt I will feel all the same emotions the next time death enters my circle. 
    Thank you for your words. 

  8. 8


    Of course, you are spot on. Auden’s poem has always been one of my favourites for that very reason. The truth is that there are no words to console those who grieve their dead relatives or friends. I have just returned from the funeral of one of the kindest, gentlest souls that ever walked this earth. She died unexpectedly, and far too soon. And that is all I can say. She is dead, and I for one, will miss her.

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