Sunday, August 26, 2007

You don't know what I need, but I do

It's definitely not a common occurrence but more than once I have heard about or read that someone was found dead...long after they had actually died and the family was living in the same house. How could that be? When I've heard these things I've always wondered how on earth something like that could happen, why would anyone want to keep a dead person in their home or didn't someone, anyone, care to check on these people? Well, this week I had the fortunate opportunity (lucky me) to be involved in a very similar situation.

Last Tuesday, 12 days ago, I was awakened at about 2:20 in the morning by a call from my answering service. There was a death in a home and the only information they had been able to attain was that the woman who called was calling about her mother, her telephone number, and the message that she needed to speak with a funeral director as soon as possible. Once I hung up with my service, I called the number and a woman answered, she sounded as if she was expecting my call so I knew I had the right person. I introduced myself and she immediately began to explain that on that morning (the day before), she had gone in to give mother her breakfast and found that she couldn't wake her. "She sleeps a lot now". Mother had been sleeping all day long and hadn't eaten a thing; not breakfast, lunch nor dinner and the daughter knew she had to eat something because she had gotten so thin over the past two months.

At 7PM, the daughter had gone out to the store to get something and when she returned she looked in on her mother and noticed that mothers face and hands were blue; she was now crying. She tried to warm her up but nothing was changing and her fear was that she may have died while she was at the store and she now didn't know what to do. When I asked her if her mother was under a doctors care she told me not really, she had taken her mother to 3 different doctors and each had told them she was dieing of cancer but neither believed them. The daughter could nurse her back to health herself. I explained that she needed to contact 911 or if she would prefer I would do it for her. "No thank you, I'll do it" she said, "thank you for the information and I'm sorry to have bothered you so late but I'd like to clean mother up before anyone comes". Before I hung up I explained that after the police arrived they would call EMS who would contact the coroner who would contact me and I would see her later.

Needless to say I got very little sleep that night because of the expectant phone call. While getting ready to go in to the office that morning I was wondering why we hadn't gotten the call; I was on the phone with her for nearly an hour and had felt a rapport, but this happens. I had even thought of calling the coroner to find out who did get the call but decided against it; oh well, I hope I helped her.

This past Wednesday, we got the call; 8 or 9 days after the death according to the coroner.

The coroner and the cops all thought this lady, the daughter, was as they put it "loony tunes" yet she hadn't really done anything illegal; wrong, but supposedly no law covers it. She had finally called 911 that morning and they had walked in on a very unexpected scene. They said the house was like an "icebox". By the time I got there it still was but I never saw the daughter. It was apparent to them that this woman had been dead for quite some time yet they had no idea how long until the coroner arrived. The coroner was able to speak with the last doctor she had seen and he had been able to confirm what the daughter had told them; she had been dieing of cancer so no autopsy was ordered and she was released to us. I spoke with this woman 8 days ago and she seemed exceptionally distressed but I wouldn't have classified her as "loony tunes", then, but now I was wondering if something might not have been right and in my sleepiness I hadn't caught it; other than her obvious denial.

When I met this woman, the daughter, face to face she was by herself and seemed quiet. We talked for quite some time that day and she explained that her mother was all she had in this world. She knew her mother had cancer and had died that first day but couldn't bear to give her up. As each day passed she knew what she had to do but didn't want to. She sat with her daily holding her hand and as physical changes began to occur even though she was basically refrigerated she eventually felt she could let her go; that's when she dialed 911. There wasn't much we could do other than hold services and bury her mother but that was all the daughter expected or wanted; I think she was at peace with the death.

Society has deemed that 1, 2, maybe 3 days and the funeral should be over; time to start to go on with our lives. Here is a woman who said to hell with society, I'll do it at my pace and it seems that she is the better for it. You've heard it from me before, "death is very personal", and this is how this person chose to do it. Because she stepped outside of the painted boundaries, because she chose to do it the way she needed to, because her way happened to be a little different she now became a "loony tunes". In my opinion, for whatever it may be worth, I think she was and is far from being her new designation. No one was hurt by what she chose, obviously there was no illegality to it, no one was affected in any way; except onlookers who couldn't understand. Her behavior may seem odd even to you or I but was it wrong? Of course her need and want for her mother haven't disappeared but doing what she did obviously was to her advantage. Why should anyone, including myself, see her actions as anything but the fulfillment of a special need? She has my full heart, and has helped me to realize once again, that no matter what someone does, no matter how odd it may seem...we never fully know what someone truly needs except our understanding and acceptance.


Anonymous said...


That was touching... In a strange way it made me a little envious that her mother was so devoutly missed.

deathsweep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deathsweep said...

I'd like to think it was only devotion but I'm sure a lot of it was the fear of being left alone. Sad, Sad, situation.


LadyBanana said...

I think it was also very brave of the daughter to go against convention and deal with it her way. I'm sure most of us are too afraid to do anything other than get swept along in the regular wave of arrangements...

deathsweep said...

Hi Lady! Good to see you here. Most people just immediately contact a funeral director and go from there. This woman actually "held on" to her mom, you're right that was brave. Think about it, when she first called me - what did I want to do? - run and get her mother - this was an eye opener for me.


paisley said...

never having been one for convention,, i say bravo... she did what she saw as best... she feared being alone,, but i am sure she feared "being in trouble" along the way too... she did what her heart told her to do,, and i am thrilled to know that there are people in this world still willing to put themselves in harms way to do what they feel is right... bravo.....

Agnes Mildew said...

What an utterly touching story. How heartbreaking for the daughter to have to go through all this anxiety about finally giving up her mother.

You wrote about this so compassionately - I really was moved.

You must be exceptionally good in your job to be able to show so much empathy and understanding.

deathsweep said...

I hadn't thought of her fear of being in trouble paisley, but you're probably right. Yeah, I applaud her too, she showed me that no matter what the world thinks or says that "their wrong might be my right" and doing it my way despite the possible negative outcome is whats best for me.


deathsweep said...

Agnes, thanks for stopping by and leaving such nice words - she was really strong and brave wasn't she?


Anonymous said...

Cool blog. I'll be back often.


jOolian said...

DS :: most excellent article.
I just recently lost my dad, and as well, my mom 2yrs ago. i was fortunately by their side until they passed-on.... it was something whereas i learned mostly about myself, and others that were affected... and as you say, everyone will never know how they'll act/react until death strikes upon their most endeared loves... As you say, to each their own, and respect it as that.
I learned that death itself, of myself, is no longer a fear...i want to live, i'm just no longer afraid of death itself.
i now fully understand the expression: rest in peace
~ julian