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Winning The Battle In The Universal Language Of Dying

Athletic events are not battles, no more than lives are. But it seems we cannot escape the language of war when it comes to speaking and writing about either subject. The football team battles for a touchdown. The patient wins– or loses– the war on disease.

And in the cases of notable sports figures who die—such as boxing legend Ken Norton just last week—the war metaphors are inescapable and amplified.

On the online obituary site legacy.com, individuals who have succumbed to long illnesses are listed like dead soldiers– casualties of some engagement in a lopsided war. Such language has spread globally beyond American media and dialogue as well- and into cultures I had always assumed were more comfortable than death than were we.

Just this past summer in the Daily Mail, the obituary for best-selling Scottish author Iain Banks read that he had “lost his battle” with gall bladder cancer. That battle was against an aggressive foe– and lasted only two months.

The International Business Times reported this past week that Paul Karason “who gained wide popularity across the globe for his blue coloured skin, died after battling various health complications, at a Washington Hospital.”

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