Word Matter. It's just that simple. Tone of voice, decibel level, body language. Those matter, too. But mostly, for the purpose of the conversation that is currently taking place inside my head, it's all about the words.
War metaphors are big when discussing disease. Some people find them helpful and I say, "Whatever gets you through.... go for it." Me? Not so much. I don't recall saying I was battling cancer when I was in active treatment. I don't recall feeling much like a warrior, either. But, I know plenty of people who find comfort using those words. I can absolutely understand how it could be empowering, could provide both strength and comfort.
When someone succumbs to the disease, the death notices seem to announce the passing using some sort of verbiage including, but most definitely not limited to "long, courageous, valiant battle." When a death notice is being written, I think that's generally the opening line. It's one phrase. Followed by the people with whom the deceased shared their life..... Sometimes, there is a little information about their activities and accomplishments.
The notices are obviously written by those left behind. Those who watched the suffering in the prior weeks and months. They are heartbroken as they spend every waking moment praying for a miracle and desperately looking for ways to obliterate the pain. But there is no miracle and only death obliterates the pain. And now the broken hearts are shattered into millions of pieces.
How about honoring the "battle" with a little description for the rest of the world.
Her smile remained bright even as the disease progressed throughout her body. For several months, she lived in constant pain yet she always managed to be the bravest one in the room. Her greatest fear was that she would not be here to see her daughter in a prom dress, or graduate from school or dance at her wedding or cradle her grandchild safely within her arms. Sadly, her fears were realized when she died of breast cancer despite the best treatment that medicine had to offer.
That's far more realistic than "after a courageous battle with breast cancer."
Christopher Hitchens whose name may be familiar to some but not to most was interviewed by Anderson Cooper before he died of cancer in December. While he will continue to have many critics, even posthumously, because of his political and atheist views, he was a brilliant writer. Likened to Thomas Paine and George Orwell, his words pretty much sum it up for me:
"You're watching poison go into your arm. People saying you should be struggling (against), battling cancer. You're not battling it. You couldn't be living a more passive moment than that. You feel as if you're drowning in powerlessness."
You may have been an atheist, Mr. Hitchens, but those words? All I can say is: AMEN, Brother, A M E N.