Friday, March 16, 2007

Occupational Hazard

Oh no. I just took a call from a work team mate who went to visit one of our elderly clients this morning and found him deceased. That sucks, and sadly it's an occupational hazard when you work with services for the frail aged. Thankfully it's rare, normally when our clients pass it's one of the family or a carer who finds them. She's understandably upset, nobody likes the shock of finding somebody like that.

You know in detective novels, or on tv crime shows, when people walk into a room and they're not sure if the person is alive or not? So untrue. I've seen a few dead people in my life and there is no mistaking it. The sense of absence is profound, and I think it's more than just lack of any animation. The first person I ever saw (my mother) the first thing that crossed through my mind was this is no longer a person. It was startling and unexpected, and in a way started me off on the path of asking spiritual questions.

Eh, I know this is a Debbie Downer post to start the day with, but death is a part of life.

17 comments:

Keith said...

Oh dear, the first time you'd seen death was with your mother? I'm sure it's been some years, but I'd hug you now if I could.

I've never had that close of a loss. Can I ask you something? Besides the profound loss, was there any peace in seeing that your mother was obviously no longer there? People who believe in an afterlife must get that sense. Even for me, I feel the sense of "their cares are gone" as they are.

I worked at a funeral home as a teenager, so I saw a lot of bodies before I ever saw one of a person that I'd loved. What a profound event.

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks sweetums.

Actually, if I could take it back and not enter the hospital room I would. To be honest. Her last 24 hours were a struggle. Chain stoke breathing (is that the right term?), you know where they struggle to draw each breath. Then while I was out of the room the staff took her false teeth out, and I had never seen her without them. So, to my 21 year old eyes she looked terrible. The pain of the past 24 hours on her face as well. Not peacefull at all, sadly.

I've made peace with it, and spiritually I have a totally different tak on death now, but for may years I could erase that image of her from my retinas. I'm gld I got to say goodbye though, so there was closure at least.

q60sgirl said...

Mmm there is no mistaking it. My first two shifts back & we had a person die each night. The body is merely a portal and you describe it well "this is no longer a person" it is incredibly spiritual & grounding & yes a part of life (((hug)))

The Other Andrew said...

Wow, that last paragraph is typo central.

I should add that it would have been her birthday last week and it weirds me out to think she would be in her 70s now. For me she's frozen in time in her mid 50s.

The Other Andrew said...

Sorry Q, cross posting at the same time! Thanks, and yes it is true - no mistaking it.

q60sgirl said...

Yes thats the right term for the breathing. I am sorry she wasn't peaceful Andrew. It is so different every time. I don't understand why some are less stressful than others. They should not have removed her teeth until you had left though xx

The Other Andrew said...

I think they took the teeth out for fear of her choking maybe? Maybe it was straight after? Who knows? Mum really, really clung on to this life hard, hence the long period of chain stoking I think. It was agonising. She did not want to go at all. In fact, she waited until the 3 of us kids left the room to get some air and then went stright away. I think she was protecting us from seeing it, or something. That would have been a very her sort of mindset.

q60sgirl said...

Happy Birthday Anniversary Andrews Mum. People are never ever far from our thoughts and mind.

q60sgirl said...

She sounds strong -willed and proud. I would have liked to meet her. She would be so proud of how she raised you Andrew. Have a good day xx

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks Q!

Michael Guy said...

I found some sense of relief when my Father died; his quality of life went out the window when he went on dialysis. He was a trooper, though. Outlived every one of the original group that began dialysis with him...nine years later.

His death didn't shock me. It was surreal. He didn't even look like my Dad and on some level it was as if I was burying a stranger.

Having survived the AIDS era, I buried a half-dozen friends. I will never forget them. Never. Cut down in the prime of our lives. Oh, jebus...I gotta' go, Andrew. But good post. The body IS just a portal.

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks MG. Big hug to you!

Keith said...

Isn't it sad that those last moments can be so affected by the intervention of "modern" medicine? (it's Cheyne-Stokes respiration, btw...another of medicine's perversities...I got dibs on that breathing thing!)
I was only a teen, but I think the whole "modern" funeral business only serves to further remove us from the true essence of death. Let's dress them up in their Sunday clothes and apply makeup so that they appear to be napping. When, as you say, nature would (and should) show that there is no longer a person there.

Sorry if that's an inappropriate tangent.

The Other Andrew said...

No I understand what you mean, but I also understand the need/desire for a 'nice looking' last memory of the deceased. We like to think of them at peace, and looking so. It's real to see them as they are when they die, but the reality can be painful. It took me quite a long time and some spiritual questing to make peace with it. For that I'm grateful though, in one weird sense.

I would have preferred to have seen a more sanitised version of my mum, to be honest. Less sleepless nights would have been had.

Keith said...

I get you. And feel you. Understand that I haven't had such an immediate loss yet, so my opinion may change dramatically when that day comes.
And I admit to an anti-wake bias.

q60sgirl said...

Kisses to MG xx

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

the teeth, TOA. it was the teeth for me too, doodlebug. they had taken dad's out by the time we got to hospital, and his mouth was open, and mum was mortified (as an RN and Midwife... she says when she was in hospitals they would never have done that to a relative).

he didn't look right at all. but his fingers were still warm and rough, and so very dad-like. comforting and f@cking heartbreaking at the same time.