Med Humanities (British Medical Journal) 2013;39:72 doi:10.1136/medhum-2012-010312
I will show you grief.
You want to see?
The open refrigerator door frames the lovers.
Just this way.
We’re almost there.
You will stand with me by the side.
You will have to look down—it’s private.
A cold visitation deep in the quiet maze of the hospital basement. Just myself witness. Best man to half an alter-vow fading under caresses. Now you along side.
‘Can I cut a piece of hair?’ she asks, no longer knowing what was hers. Crush hold memento.
‘Of course, or we can take care of that for you’. I would start the case as soon as she finished. An intrusion of strong gloved hands and calculating blades waiting.
The hair was her final quiet request, but the visit had started with a scream. Mrs. Paznyk had seen her husband immediately after he had died, but not since, now a day later.
‘Close his eyes! Close his eyes! Close his mouth! Stop it!’ Eyes as wide as his, mouth not quite, body pulled back. She was unprepared for rigor mortis’s play. Swift sculptor of all dead. No embalmer’s rewinding art yet.
‘It’s part of death’.
‘Ok. It’s part of death. It’s part of death. It’s better this way. It’s normal’. Recoiled pain and suffering stuffed into calmed adult readiness. But still bruising, tearing under the surface.
We had agreed on 15 minutes for this last viewing. It made sense to have a start and an end, or she would have remained there, in the cold walk-in, drinking passionate memories and tender commitments from a bottle of Amontillado-laced grief.
I shall leave you here.
If this is what you were looking for.
Unless you would like to meet four year old Javier.
Rolling onto my lap.
‘Read it again!’
‘Ok. I love David. He’s such a bad boy!’
Nose up to mine.
Hand on book.
‘Read it again!’
Competing interests None. Provenance and peer review
Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
Author note: All names and events are fictional.