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The Indefinite Article.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A Funeral This Morning

I went to the funeral this morning of the spouse of the bike tour's logistics contractor. I had gotten to know him from the various social events around the tour time and felt the loss, not only from my appreciation of him but also in respect to his spouse Barbara, who I deeply respect and esteem as a senior colleague.

I dashed out an email to the office staff this morning, as is our custom to let one another know if we are going to be out of the office for a time. As I wrote it I encountered a verb tense quandary--do I mix tenses or keep everything in past tense? In some ways it is beside the point: there are more important things to do, like being on time for the funeral, than think about how verb tense is an expression of my general world-view or religiosity.

Still, it stayed in my head and I had a greater appreciation for languages without verb tense, like Chinese. In some ways I felt compelled to write about Mike in the past tense. This follows the tradition that the game is over when brain activity ceases and your body starts to decay. As a not very religious person, am I expressing atheism by referring to someone in past tense, as if they were not just traveling to whatever afterlife they believe in? This is sympathetic to a fault though, as most religious people still use past tense in referring to people whose bodies are clinically not alive.


  • I recently attended a reception for our "Heart of MD Anderson" award recipient for this quarter, given out by the Division of Diagnostic Imaging. During the reception (that i was photographing) Dr. C got up to say a few words about Pat, who had recently lost her husband and told the following:

    "...me and my [sic]Jewish wife had never been to a Baptist service before. so we're standing there realizing that no one is crying as if someone had just passed away, but instead singing and praising for he had returned home.

    "...I leaned over to my wife and said, 'How do we join this church'..."

    Point being, there is a lot to be said for how one speaks/writes of death.

    By Blogger Killy, at 1:00 PM  

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