Monday, 15 February 2010
For the last couple of weeks I have been reading death notices. Suddenly, it seems, no one dies. They pass away. Or they pass away peacefully. If they don't pass away, the notices seldom say'Died'. More usually they include a date, which gives the inference of the fact. My friend M, whose husband died a year ago, says she had to insist t the funeral director that the death notice should say 'died' instead of 'passed away'.
What is this sudden fashion, or passion for euphemisms? Is death the ultimate taboo? Evidently expletives no longer have to be deleted, but instead occur every second or third word, irrespective of the subject under discussion. While sexuality is overt and explicit, somehow many people cannot bring themselves to speak clearly and openly about death. I hate euphemisms. Call a spade a spade. Speak of things as they are. Be clear in thought and speech. Birth and death are everyday events: they happen to us all. Birth is generally a source of joy and love, and death is a source of pain, sorrow and grief. Both are real, and don't vanish if ignored.
I like to see what names are given given to or inflicted on innocent babies. As birth notices are often not published in the newspapers as they once were, occasionally I search on line. This week I did so because two nieces had their babies this week. They were given names which to me sound pleasant and normal, quite unlike the crop I discovered on the Internet today -which included Breckin, Trinity Pearl, Minnie Star and Logan Kade.
My sister C, who is the grandmother of these two new baby girls, is the mother of five children, and she now has eight granddaughters and two grandsons. There is another grandchild to come in a few months. I feel quite envious as I don't think there will be any more grandchildren for me. So they tell me. I dote on all my grandchildren, four of whom are boys, and there is only one girl. When she was born, after the first three boys, I was so delighted I cried. I would have liked another granddaughter. (Or another grandson.) Obviously I should have had more children, so as to increase the chances. I expected to have a larger family, and evidently was very fertile. But only half my pregnancies were successful, and I had to plead and argue very strenuously to have my third child. My parents had 23 grandchildren, and to date there are 23 great-grandchildren.
Fertility and reproduction are so intrinsically fascinating. We are hard-wired to become besotted with babies, whether human or animals. Something innate in us realises that having children creates love and tenderness. We can understand the disadvantages and difficulties of having children, but in our innermost souls we know that they bring joy and great emotional satisfaction, and answer our deepest needs.
Look at all the people who flock to the zoo to see the baby elephants. Kittens and puppies enchant most of us. We smile and coo at babies we encounter, and have an urge to soothe an unhappy or fractious baby or small child. When we see a newborn baby, we want, we need to hold and cuddle it, to feel that tiny head and soft snuggly body conform to our bodies, to stroke its back and head, and to drop kisses onto the baby face. There is delight and amazement at every development, the way the baby stops crying (generally) when it is picked up, the way the baby recognises its parents, smiles, laughs, writhes with pleasure in the bath, kicks and rolls over, learns to sit, crawl, stand and walk. Then there is the dawning of intelligence, language and self-expression. Does anyone remember that wonderful sequence in Jacob Broinowski's The Ascent of Man, when the baby rises to its feet and walks? The sense of achievement and the delight in it.
I rather like the old expression for being pregnant - increasing.