Working in the trade that I do I often hear the phrase “Oh I couldn’t do your job!” Now for most people that’s fairly acceptable. But when I hear it from the mouths of carers and nurses I get quite bemused?
They do an outstanding job with the living and I couldn’t do their job not for all the money in the world. But why is it some can care for the elderly and the gravely ill for many years often doing things you would not willingly agree to without fuss or question. But when they die it gets wired for them!
The sight of a dead body creeps them out even though they have looked after that person for so long! What is it about death and the dead body that would turn the most hardened nurse and caregiver to a squeamish mess when it comes to the person dying? It also puzzles me how when we are alive we are always referred to by our names and titles. As soon as we die we become “the body, the corpse, the cadaver etc..... It’s almost like our pride and dignity has gone out the window and we become objects rather than people. Have we become that detached from death and the dying process that we turn it into a macabre soap opera that only others deal with?
I often get asked what are my thoughts on donating your body to medical science and other institutions? And also what are my thoughts on organ donation. There are many ways in which we can leave our dead bodies to different organisations such as medical schools, scientific research facilities and mortuary schools for the purposes of embalming education. But you can also leave you body to a friend like in the case of the homeless man known as Diogenes and his flamboyant and eccentric artist friend Robert Lenkiewicz.
Lenkiewicz painted and drew Diogenes for many years and even took him in giving him a home. Diogenes agreed that Lenkiewicz could have his body. When he died in a Plymouth hospital Robert took the body and had it embalmed. He then kept the body until his own death in 2002 when’re it was discovered in his extensive library in his home and art studio.
Personally my view is this. Once your dead your dead. Your body is no use to you anymore so it might as well be used to someone else. If not your whole body then at least your organs. I myself am an organ donor and upon my death my family have been instructed to allow my organs to be donated if they are of any use to anyone at the time? There’s no point in having a corpse full of useful organs rotting away when they can be doing someone some good somewhere. I have done a YouTube video to accompany this blog post which is up and running now.
As most of you know being an undertaker means that you have to spend time on call. That means that you may have to conduct out of hours chapel visits or viewings including at weekends. I found myself doing this last weekend while I was on call myself.
Chapel visits are basically exactly what they say. Families will come into the funeral home to spemd time with their loved ones before the funeral takes place. These visits can happen anytime. The funeral business is a 24 hour business so we have to be availible to our clients whenever they need us? However out of hours chapel visits are by strict appointment only. Funeral homes operate over five days a week Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am to 5pm. After the home closes the satff go home to their own families. So if one of our 'funeral families' wants to come out of those stated hours then an appointment has to be made. Theres nothing worse than when a family member turns up out of the blue and wants to be let in especially when you are a few miles away!
I also took the opportunity to explain in one of my YouTube vlogs the process of how a call out works when a sudden death occurs. In the U.K. anyone who dies unexpectedly in either a car accident, murder, drug overdose, suicide or any other unexplainable circumstances then the death is automatically referred to the coroner. Also if a person had not seen an doctor in the last fourteen days prior to death then the case is referred to the coroner. As far as the funeral directors are concerned they are subcontracted by the coroner to remove the deceased to a mortuary. In a sudden death situation the coroner will contact the police who will take control of the death scene until the body has been removed. Once the body is at the mortuary the coroner will then determine of an autopsy is required.
I love interesting facts about most things. But when i hear something death related particuarly about the funeral profession I get super excited
Did you know that the term ‘rose cottage’ is actually medical code for mortuary or morgue? Years ago when death was not spoken about, seen or referred to in any way medical practitioners and hospital porters had to come up with a way of broaching the subject of a patient dying without actually ever having to mention the word death or mortuary.
So when a patient died on a hospital ward the nurse in charge would ring the porters lodge and say ‘we have a patient on ward A who needs to go to rose cottage’. The porters would know that by the nursing staff referring to rose cottage they knew that someone had died and their body needed to be taken to the mortuary. Even nowadays some hospitals refer to their mortuaries as rose cottage but it’s a pretty old fashioned saying and thankfully things have moved in slightly.