I notice the way we use language. It’s what I do. One thing I’ve been very aware of lately is the way we speak of the dead, the departed, the Risen (I’ve got a million of euphemisms for them). Just a couple of weeks ago a long term relationship between a medium and a grief support group was dissolved because some people were upset about the medium using the word “dead”. The word holds so much power over them that they could not bear for others to use it in their presence. That’s how powerful language can be.
The particular thing I’ve noticed lately is when we speak of those who have made their transition, when we ask the experts questions about the dead, we almost always say us when referring to those who are “alive” and them when referring to those on the “Other Side”. This use of of us and them puts a barrier up between the “dead” and the “alive”. It builds a wall between the “living” and the “dead”. We ask: “What do they do all day?” “Do they watch us in the shower?” “Can they hear me when I talk to them?”
I think the use of this language is indicative of the fact that we humans tend to think whatever state we are in at the time is permanent. I remember being a kid sitting around the kitchen table with my grandmother. To me, I was a kid. She was an old lady. That’s the way it had always been. That’s the way it always would be. When she told me she felt the same way she did when she was 16, the age I was at the time, I literally could not understand it until years later. One of the lines she said to me that I remember most was “If you live long enough, you get old.” Intellectually, we all know this is true, but we really don’t take it to heart when we’re young. I remind Kayla of this pearl of wisdom constantly when she talks about us “old” people. I remind her she is not a young person. She just happens to be young, at this moment in time. Intellectually, we all know that we are going to die, just as we know we are going to get old. But, we really don’t take it to heart. We don’t truly believe that day will ever come. So, old people are not us. Dead people are not us. They are them.
When we refer to those who have made their transition, we use pronouns that make them seem other than us. They are foreigners. Even our loved ones, those who are the closest to us, after that person has made his transition, he becomes one of them. They become somewhat of a stranger to us. In the twinkling of an eye that person has gone from being one of us to being one of them.
What I try to remember is that they are not them. They are us. All of us, each and every one, will make that transition. I have an exercise I do with people I see on the street. If it is a kid, i picture her old. If it is an old person, I picture her as a kid. The Buddhists meditate on their own death. They chant (not every day) “One day this body will be a corpse). That is a very useful exercise.
The only difference between them and us is time. They are not far away. They are not so very different. They are us. We are them. The question is not “What do they do all day?” It’s “What will I do all day?