I, of course, never have an actual conversation with the deceased but everyone tells a story. Thankfully most tell a common story. I bring them into the prep room and begin my work. I carefully remove the blanket their family wrapped them in. Often they are holding a cross, or a photo of a memory. The wrinkles of age appear on their body and you can tell they were old and have had their time on this earth, hopefully most of it happy.
Unfortunately on those occasions where a body comes from the medical examiner the story is often different. Sometimes there are bruises, or needle marks. Other times the neck will be destroyed because of a hanging, or there will be a bullet wound to the head. Cuts on inner thighs can often indicate self-mutilation.
After I’m done you won’t see the needle marks, nor will you see where the noose was hung around their necks. I’ll spend my hours sewing up their bodies and hiding their wounds. However, despite this I feel like I would not be doing my duty to society to not share some of these stories. Suicide and drugs are needless deaths.
At some point, everybody has thoughts about their own death. I know I have. There are times when ending one’s life seems better than living. For those that do choose suicide, you don’t get to see the physical aftermath. Nor do you see the complicated grief, pain and devastation aftermath that you leave behind. You don’t see the family that I have to meet with.
And, It turns out all those people you thought didn’t care about you really did. Your mother or father or siblings will ask me why you killed yourself, what they should have done, and how to go on with life without you. These are questions I can’t answer. I’ll be with them as they try their hardest to pick out a casket or an urn, still not fully realizing you’re gone. I’ll also be there at the funeral service when all your friends and family will talk about the hole that you have left in their lives.
If you are thinking about ending your life — coming from a person who listens to the stories after you’re gone – let me tell you, YOU ARE A BIG PART OF THE PEOPLES LIVES AROUND YOU. It’s a deed that cannot be undone, and the people around you are the ones that have to live with it.
I’d also like to talk about drugs.
A family came in to meet with me about their daughter. She was a senior in high school and about to graduate. Her family had no idea why she died. She was brought up in a Christian household, with a family who loved her. She was always happy and wasn’t one to run with the wrong crowd. She was found dead one day face down in her bedroom; there was no needles present, no gun, no signs of trauma.
Because of this, the time I spent with the family was very difficult. First they had to bury their young daughter, but it was made even harder since they did not know what killed her, nor would they for months to come (as the medical examiner often takes months to confirm findings). We spent hours as they told me stories about their little girl.
It was painstakingly hard to select a casket, flowers, folders etc. … you could tell with every decision the realization that their daughter was gone was becoming more clear. At the end they handed me her senior photo so I would know what she looked like. Looking at the photo I couldn’t help but wonder myself what killed this girl. Normally it is fairly obvious, especially when I am piecing them back together.
I would not find out until much later that the cause was an overdose on cough syrup. Her and a friend were trying “Tusin tripping” (Robitussin). She had never used any sort of drugs before. When I called the family months after the service to deliver the news, you can imagine their reaction. They had a happy family, and strong faith.
They will likely spend the rest of their lives wondering what they could have done to prevent this.
This is not an uncommon story in my line of work. If you’re using drugs STOP. Especially over the counter drugs. I’ve seen people die from trying heroin once. Or from abusing pain killers. You may not think that trying something once will kill you, and you’re probably right it most likely won’t. But why take the chance? You will be literally torturing those you leave behind as they spend their days wondering what THEY did wrong.
When I meet with families, it is too late. I need the help of others to try to reduce needless deaths. Neither you nor I can save everyone from drugs or suicide. But maybe we can help one person, and by saving them, save all those they would be leaving behind.
This post was written by Bryan Stucky. For the original post, go to: http://www.calebwilde.com/2013/06/a-funeral-directors-thoughts-on-drugs-and-suicide/
BE A MAN.