I'm sure all of you have to had to tell someone that a death has occurred. It can be difficult to do, especially when the person answers the phone all cheery and happy. I have learned to assume a serious tone of voice and say, "I have bad news" and then blurt it out. At least you've prepared them.
I was talking to someone else a few days ago who had to make some bad news calls and he thought it wasn't proper to leave it as a voice mail. I said that these days I think it is -- how many people never answer their phone. I said I believe you can leave a dignified, respectful message.
What made me start thinking of this is an email I just received from the National Writers Union (to which I belong for my health insurance). It begins:
In case you haven't heard, poet Dwight Carson made his transition last week. Today, I got the word on the arrangements. Please forward this to those you know may be interested.
I think that expression ("made his transition") is a bit too vague. If someone told me that Bob made his transition, I'd say, "To what?" I don't think I'd know what the person meant, even though spiritually I believe making your transition is an accurate description.
Another poet, Richard Brautigan, wrote that it really doesn't matter how you tell someone -- because at the end of the conversation, the person is still dead so you might as well blurt it out. We had a wonderful florist a block or so from me, and the owner, Nick was this lovely gentleman, Greek, who would always give me a rose when I bought plants for my garden. He recently died, very sad, and when I walked past there the other day, one of the employees of the florist who was outside, called me over and said gently, "Did you know we lost Nick?" I thought that was a nice way of putting it.
A few hours later, after I posted this, I was reading something for work about a pilot learning to fly new glass instruments (in the "dashboard" of the airplane) as opposed to older analog instruments. Often times, people in the aviation industry call this "transitioning to glass" since even experienced pilots need some instruction. Anyway, along those lines of "making the transition", this pilot wrote, "My wife is also a pilot and she's going to start her transition very soon."