Saturday, July 19, 2008


1845 hrs -- I've just arrived at the home of the deceased. His tearful daughter and her boyfriend meet me outside. The daughter had come to the home to look in on her father and has found him dead. I go right in to examine the body.

He's sitting in a chair in front of the TV. I scan his immediate surroundings: Nice assortment of snack foods. Check. TV remote. Check. Oxygen. Check. Pitcher of water. Check. Bucket to pee in. Check. This man was exactly where he wanted to be and doing exactly what he wanted to do when he died. Well done, sir. I give him an imaginary, standing ovation.

"Could you please call my brother?", asks the daughter. "He's out of state, but he's always handled Dad's bills and stuff. He can tell you what funeral home to call."

"Sure, no problem," I reply. The patient's son answers the phone and I offer my condolences. He knows that his sister is in the home and immediately begins an anti-sister tirade:

"That woman has never cared about Dad", he rants. "All she's ever cared about is her booze and drugs!"

I look up at his sister. She's sitting quietly, wiping away her tears. Uncomfortable with the direction this is going, I steer the conversation toward the selection of a funeral home. He already has one picked out, but he does have some concerns:

"Will they let me see my dad before they cremate him?"

"Yes, yes of course", I reply. "That shouldn't be a problem at all. I'll make sure to tell the mortuary about your request when I call them."

"Well, how about this...", he responds. "I can be in (city name) by ten P.M. tomorrow night. How about if you just let him stay where he is, so I can see him?"

Okay... that's at least twenty-six hours from now. I rapidly begin a new checklist: This is so unethical. Check. Possibly illegal. Check. Corpse in very warm mobile home in middle of August. Check. I don't need to go any further...

"No, Mr. ( )", I reply. "I'll just call the funeral home."

The call has ended and I turn to the patient's daughter. I know that she has completely gotten the gist of this unusual conversation. "Thank you", she says softly. "Thank you so much for everything."

Driving out of the trailer park, I'm thinking about the patient's son. I wonder about his motivation to see his father, long dead, in a chair. Is it about love? Is it someway tied to his feelings about his sister? Is it... ? Is it... ? I'm giving myself a headache. I hope he has a checklist.

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