Saturday, September 24, 2011


The occasion of my brother-in-law's funeral this weekend has made me think about funerals and death. I even woke up from a nightmare this morning. In it someone was walking by, and then someone said, "Look who else is here." The person following was John, as he appeared in his casket last night.
I guess as much as I thought I was handling it, I think it still creeped me out to see him there. There's nothing "normal" about death, no matter how often we see it. And I've seen more death than I should have. I've seen the process of dying so often that I can recognize imminent death. I know the signs to watch for; no urine output, cold extremities, cheyne-stokes breathing (laboured breathing alternating with apnea). Death is usually measured in hours at that point, although I've seen it stretch to days, but that is rare and it takes an especially strong person to last for days with such effort to breathe. It's also hard on the family, who are on "death watch", alternating which family member will stay with them so they're not alone. Yet I've also seen family members who don't recognize death when it comes, even though they've been watching for it.
But seeing these signs in a family member is so much harder than with a patient.
Also,as a rule, I don't go to funerals of my patients. I was going to make an exception for my favourite patient's funeral, but then John died and his funeral was planned for the same time. I felt bad about missing it, but of course, family takes precedence. His daughter seemed to understand when I told her.
Last night was the visitation. It was so good to see my relatives, although the occasion was very sad. Of course, the open casket was important for some, for closure. I understand, and I'm okay with it as long as the person is presentable i.e. not burned, for example.
Speaking of that, they are planning to cremate him. I personally dislike the whole idea of it, especially if there is no permanent grave marker to show the person ever lived. So, to add to my blog, Funeral Plans, do NOT cremate me, you may do an open casket, and you may document the day with a video or pictures. Yes, Finns take pictures at funerals, and I'm totally okay with that.
Today the funeral service was held at the funeral home and officiated by a Justice of the Peace. She was the same person who married them a few months ago. John was from an Irish Catholic family, but I guess he wasn't very "Catholic" anyway, so they did a secular funeral, which is so different from Christian funerals,where there is a sadness amidst hope.
The eulogies were good. Even my sister spoke, which I thought was very brave. I couldn't do that. I also learned things abot John that I never heard in the five years I've known him. He had a very supportive network of family and friends.
Afterward, we went to a local pub. Apparently, it's what the Irish do. I'm glad we went.

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