Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Post Ninety-Eight: The Who, What , Where, When and Why-ing of Dying.
I talk about myself alot when I write about my job. I don't know why. I think it's because it has been the precursor in my life to a level of personal maturity. I didn't have a teen pregnancy, I haven't lost any parents yet...I just became a mortician. Weird. And, only sometimes this maturity rears it's demure head...
Being in the mortuary, sometimes I forget to explain what goes on outside my brightly lit and bleachy-smelling (yet otherwise pleasant) four walls. I don't know what I would've thought happened when people actually die if I hadn't come to work with the slowly decomposing every day. Here goes my attempt at a concise and simple explaination.
People die for heaps of reasons. Most of the time because they were very sick, sometimes because they got sick really quickly, sometimes by accident, and sometimes by their own will. That pretty much covers it. That's the why (without getting into philosophy and population theories, cripes!).
Death for those that deal with the 'immediately-after' side of things is broken down into unexpected death and expected death. Whenever someone dies outside of a hospital, expected or unexpected, the ambulance or personal doctor is called to do their thang. When the death has been expected and the doctor agrees to sign off on a cause of death (referred to as the all important Form 9, just to get technical) the funeral home is then called to take the deceased into their care. That, my friends, is me!
When either the death is unexpected or the doctor cannot for whatever reason sign off on the Form 9, the coroner may be called to take on the case and deem the cause of death. In this case, a funeral company under contract is called by police to transfer the deceased to the John Tonge Centre in Brisbane for coronial investigation.
Of course, the family is a funeral homes focus. We stay in touch from the moment we recieve the first call until after the funeral takes place. Following the first call, the family is assigned an 'arranger' that is a contact person for the particular branch where the funeral home runs from. Arrangers are like angels, but sometimes have big bellies, ancient briefcases and snorty laughs. I generally like them as people. They pretty much organise everything paperworky and tricky.
So, generally the funeral can run however the family want. There is a stock standard committal, but most funeral diectors prefer it when the deceased is honoured with a really personal tribute that shows us who they really were in life. Sounds cheesy but the more work for us, the happier we are because it makes the job crazy interesting. I know at least I walk away feeling like I've made an important connection after every one. I remember deceased names sometimes better than I do walking, living and breathing people.
Anyway, I prepare the deceased a day or two before the big send off, and often people 'view' the body a day before the service in a special reflection room filled with ambient lights, nice couches and soft mozarty-kind tunes. It's a good way to deal with the realities I think. I'm all for demystifying the process, and it makes it so much less scarier. Kind of like eating prawns for the first time. (Kinda?!?)
Then, after the service the body is cremated or buried. The immediate tasks are over and generally, the long road to healing begins.....A long, long rong it is.
Peace and Love.
P.S. More on cremation and burial to come. Lots more!