Saturday, December 23, 2017

In Oregon, It's "Rust To Rust"

Ruth
Slipped away, left this world, lost her battle, entered eternal rest, died, went home, was called home, went  to be with his Lord, succumbed, passed away.  Those, in no order, are the top ten ways we Americans try to not say "died." Except for "died." "Passed away" is the most popular. ("Pissed away" refers to how we spend our lives.) There are regional differences in the words we use. "Died" is popular in North Dakota, for instance, where "bought the farm" isn't all that metaphorical.

Someone calculated the most characteristic death euphemisms for each state based on obituaries.  Here in Oregon I am led to understand we characteristically use "succumbed." I always, always read the obituaries (you know, just in case) and can't remember having seen that word even once. But I like it. "Succumbed" is succinct and apt. If you succumb, you have yielded to an inevitably greater power or force, such as death, which is currently batting a thousand against humanity, all rumors notwithstanding. Relatively few Oregonians are ever called home, or go to be with their Lord. (Oregon ranks first in the nation in churchlessness, beer, and strip joints. I think the strip-joint stat is old news from back before we had internet porn.)

If we get to choose our own verbiage, I'm going with "filled her eternity shorts." But "succumbed" might be the best way to refer to my friend Ruth, who just did it a few days ago. She was not interested in dying. She was a remarkable woman whose sweet face belied her strong convictions. For instance, she despised the medical establishment, and the pharmaceutical industry never sank a single claw in her. Which is unusual for a woman her age.

Generally speaking when a girl gets to be 102, she's kind of ready to go. She might not know how to accomplish it, but she's ready. Not Ruth. She had stacked up a nice neat pile of years and didn't see any reason they couldn't keep on coming. Ruth was about as bright as you can be when you're that old, though we might have lost her two years ago if Trump had been in office. She couldn't have survived getting a congratulatory 100th-birthday card from him, but she liked the Obama one, and promptly signed up for more birthdays. We were getting the idea she'd keep them coming out of sheer habit, but one morning she just succumbed. Or--even better--conceded.

Coincidentally, Dave and I had just taken care of his mom. I found him studying the contents of the dining room hutch, looking for something to evict--he's a neatnik--when his eyes lit on a garish golden box. The Mommie. Dave's mom always signed her cards "The Mommie."

"Let's stick her in the garden," Dave said.

"What? Now?"

Now. He opened the box and retrieved a shockingly large baggie of ashes and bone bits and headed to the back yard. Mom Flambe.

Dave's mom hasn't been around since 1989. In her case, we will say she "clocked out." I don't know what else you can call it when you find her sitting up in her chair with her coffee cup to one side and the newspaper in her lap and the Cubbies on the TV and otherwise lifeless. Her ashes went to live in Dave's sister's closet, where she could visit them when she needed advice, and then two years ago they were "passed on," as it were, to us.

We didn't want them. This kind of thing is not our thing.

What was supposed to happen was she was supposed to be surreptitiously sprinkled on Wrigley Field, but you really have to work at something like that, and we're not ambitious. So the garish golden box ended up in our hutch until now, when Dave took it out the back door.

"How about the compost pile?" I contributed. "That way she'll end up everywhere, if I ever get around to turning it."

We got our neighbor Anna to put on real shoes and come over to witness, because she's a caring soul and already knows we're nuts. I think we laughed a lot but didn't say anything noteworthy as Dave shook out the baggie over our compost pile and began turning it with the pitchfork we're saving for the Revolution. We empty the vacuum cleaner bag for the same reason and with as much ceremony.

We loved The Mommie. But she wasn't in that box.

46 comments:

  1. I dislike euphemisms, and make it a point to say "died" instead of "passed away", which is what people around here usually say. I think it's the same dynamic in operation that makes people put their old folks into "retirement homes" or "extended care facilities": we don't like to be reminded that someday, we, too, will die. Old people kind of burst our balloon of denial, especially when we can no longer deny that we, too, are getting older. Let's stick them in storage until they "pass on", so we can continue to close our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears, and shout "La, la, la... I can't hear you!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How about "Wipeinators" for extended care facilities?

      Delete
  2. I always liked "kicked the bucket," after seeing It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with Jimmy Durante doing the honors. "Croaked" was also a favorite from childhood. Died is just so dull compared to "bit the dust", or "going into the fertilizer business", which is kind of what you did here. There is the politically correct "living impaired" or the classic "pushing up daisies". I hope when I die that someone will at least chuckle a bit when they think of me hanging out with Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, and the others in Valhalla.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't suppose chanting "Hell, no, I won't go" would do any good!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I also read obituaries.
    One I read years ago still stays with me. Written by an obviously loving family it finished with 'the old cow has gone up the paddock for the last time'.
    I would love to know the story behind that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My fave was the old boxer who "threw in the towel". Condolences on your friend Ruth. Sounds like she will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She will be remembered appropriately and fondly, and, if I get my way, with a bottle of Proseco. But it was a good long run.

      Delete
  6. Why does everyone fight a brave fight with cancer? Some must be cowardly about fighting it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Onion once had a headline of "Area Boy Succumbs After Cowardly Battle With Cancer."

      Delete
  7. One English expression is "to pop your clogs."
    When I am dead, having died, I don't suppose I'll care how my dispatch notice reads.Just so long as it doesn't tell people my final destination. You can all wait til I get there and let you know!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I, too, read the obituaries religiously and have clipped collection of wonderful, weird sentences or odd occupations or deeds written by the beloved. Jeannine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Around here, which is far from North Dakota, fully 10% of our dead appear to have been born in North Dakota. Some kind of groove has been established.

      Delete
  9. I kind of like the idea of the biodegradable urn thing with a baby tree in it. Plant me in the back 40.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vultures for me--unfortunately, not legal! But why?

      Delete
  10. Oh my, that smile on The Mommie! I would follow her anywhere.

    My sister (turned 60 on Monday) will be filling her Eternity Shorts soon (cancer). She's also there in your fair city. Thank you for giving me a grin through this.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "We loved The Mommie. But she wasn't in that box." That is the way I feel about my "Mommie"!

    ReplyDelete
  12. It gets either of less or more interest the closer you get to the actual event. Haven't decided yet. All of my kin are rather south of you, when you go through Eugene, just past up to the left of I5 is Laurel Hill Cemetery. We have damn near a standard house lot up there, now overlooking and rather hearing I5. I suppose it was quieter once, back around 1888 when the first Mulligan was buried there. Once I was going to have my kids spread my ashes on some favorite rivers, the Deschutes, etc, but I realized that'd never happen; one of them would find them in a jar in her late years and toss them with the recycles. So now they're just going to mix them with some water and toss them in the general area of all the other mulligans.
    It's a nice place to have a picnic, if you want a drive down, feel free to spread a cloth on our plot, it's on the west side.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and the first Mulligan, Charnelton, was the 'co-founder' of Eugene, with Eugene named from him. Sounds better than Charnelton even to me. The mulligans came there in '46 or 47, depending on the story, over the Oregon trail on wagons. My youngest has documented most of it to the time they got to the Whitmore missionary on the Columbia.

      Delete
    2. Eugene Skinner, I should have put in the first sentence.

      Delete
    3. So true - she wasn't in that box. I never understand people who have to go to the cemetery to "visit" their loved ones. They aren't there. They're all around. You can talk to them any time you want. You don't have to go somewhere. Half of my mom's ashes were buried with my Dad, but we kept the other half to scatter in meaningful places. Only problem is we didn't realize how many ashes there would be. So we scattered some at Cape Cod and then were stuck with a whole bunch of ashes. We finally had her church bury them in the Memorial Garden. So at least the remaining ashes are properly ensconced. But I kept a pinch that I put in a baggie to bring to Scotland, which was my mom's favorite country. Hey, it couldn't hurt.

      Delete
    4. Hey. You're only allowed one Mulligan. I do believe your family is taking undue advantage. That said, if you can get away with it, bury away!

      Delete
    5. Mimi, right? I must've seen my parents' ashes--they died in 1980 and 1981--but I don't remember dealing with them. They're underground in Bozeman and I haven't visited them. Then the next bit of cremated remains I saw was my sister Margaret. She was tiny. It was a tidy box. So when box after box of Dave's mom came forth...it was kind of horrifying.

      I guess we can't fault people for hanging onto whatever they've got. I didn't even get rid of my SAT scores until a few years ago.

      Delete
  13. Here in DC, lots of obits use euphemisms like "transitioned"....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eww! Certainly implies some forward movement, and if anyone sees any movement around me, it's probably going to be maggots.

      Delete
  14. I like the idea of her being in the compost heap. My brother took the ashes of both my parents, separately since they died four years apart, and sprinkled them in the ocean off Western Australia so they could float home to Germany as per their wishes. But before that, I took a teaspoonful of ashes from each one and buried it by my favourite rose bush, which then rewarded me with more roses than usual that following summer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd been thinking we could've put The Mommie's ashes up on Mt. Hood because they'd be virtually indistinguishable from the volcanic ash that prevails. I'm PERFECTLY happy with Dave's sudden solution though.

      Delete
  15. The minister at my Granny's funeral said, "Her life wasn't ended; it was completed." I kind of like that. Miss her every day.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The Salvation Army says, "Promoted to Glory." That rather took my fancy. Being a good recycler, I'm donating my body to the med school. Most of their cadavers are homeless transients. My carcass should give them a bit of variety. "Is this what a liver is supposed to look like? No hardening, no lesions? Wow, maybe I'll give up drinking."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm thinking of the same thing for me, but I don't think my liver would look much different from what they're used to.

      Delete
  17. Well, so much for pomp and circumstance.

    ReplyDelete
  18. My husband carried his father's cremains around in the passenger side of his truck for years. He always said, "Pop Pop's riding shotgun!" Eventually they were interred in a cemetery. Still in the box.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well, that's the hardest I have ever laughed at a last-rites ceremony. Sorry about that, no disrespect. Had to get a towel to mop the tears before I could type this.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sometimes a hard job is easier if you can just decide to do it on the spur of the moment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Even easier if someone ELSE decides to do it on the spur of the moment.

      Delete