We went to see my brother Cam in the morgue the day after he died. I wasn't planning on going in, because watching my stepdad Jim die last year really messed me up.
We sat and waited with the cops for a while, until the most beautiful lady came out to talk to us. She knelt down in front of us, spoke softly, took my mums hand with such compassion and concern. Her name was Anouk.
"Ok I'd like to let you all know .... when you walk into the room, Cameron will be lying down with a sheet tucked up to his chest. He'll be wearing a white hospital gown. (Pointing) His head is up there and his feet down there. You can stay in there for as long as you like. Do you have any questions?"
We didn't, but we were all thinking what a wonderful person she was, really warm and caring and meant it. I'm so glad she described the scene before we went in, made it less scary.
I walked in last, stood at a distance. It was shocking and confronting and relieving all at once. There he was! Right in front of us! Hey Cambo! His beautiful hands were out in front of him and kind of up a bit. The look on his face told me he didn't suffer and wasn't in pain when he died. (I still can't believe he died. This week has been dreadful.)
I didn't want to touch him because mum said how cold he was. I think we all took turns in crying - except Dave. That week Dave gave all of us such respite in his strength.
Death is such a freaky, scary, cloistered thing in our culture. Yet it happens every day. In Bali you can buy tickets to watch a funeral and then see as the body gets set alight. Tickets. Like a show.
We all said thank you to Anouk and walked outside. The policeman told us to have a great day. When we were back at Lindas house, we couldn't believe that a coroner could be so utterly caring. Then we found out that Anouk was actually a counsellor. A bloody good one.
A few days later I needed to see Cam again one last time before he was cremated. (CREMATED WHAT) Mum did too, so she and I made an appointment and went back, just the two of us. Our final last chance to say goodbye. This time we had a lady called Michelle come out to greet us, explain where he was, etc. She was a bit more lively - told us how handsome Cam was.
Mum and I walked in and half of his face looked like it was sunburnt. It looked good, like he'd got a bit of a tan while hanging out at the old morgue. Michelle explained that as he died his head fell to the right, leaving a pool of blood. And the longer he was in the morgue, the more pronounced it was. I touched him this time. His legs and his arms and his hands. I mopped his defrosting forehead with a tissue that I put in my back pocket and vowed to always keep. I've no idea where it is now. Mum gave me some time alone with him. I cannot remember one thing I said to him. I wondered if he was just standing right there, looking at me looking at him, so unwilling to say goodbye but knowing I had to and we were never, ever to see him in this incarnation in life again.
That shit burns like nothing I've ever experienced.
Mum came back in and I press down on his legs, making a plastic sound. We wondered what it was ... maybe something they put there to keep the body cool?
We walked out, after kissing and loving as much as we could. We said goodbye to Michelle and we were literally half way out the door when I turned and asked her where his clothes were that he was wearing when he came.
"Hmmm. Good question."
She went into the office to check for notes - none. We followed her back in where Cam was, and she walked right around, reached up where his legs were, and then pulled out this huge plastic bag containing all of his clothes. (Hey Rocky, watch me a pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothin' up my sleeve!)
"I'm so sorry, this should have been given to you."
I watched as mum reached in and pulled the clothes out. When she got to the bright red hoodie she started crying. It was the hoodie she'd given him for his birthday just a month before, she'd been looking for it at his flat the day before and assumed he didn't like it because she couldn't find it.
"He liked it! He *did* like it!"
It was good that we got his clothes and saw him a second time and mum knows he liked the hoodie ... but it was all wrong.
Everything was wrong. Thank goodness for people like Anouk and Michelle to help guide people like us through the very worst times of our lives.
1. Noelene the Young
2. Megan the Mouse
3. Harpal the Australian
4. Darren the Artist
5. Jo the Interesting
6. John the Telstra Guy
7. Michael the Photographer
8. Peg the Lady
9. Jeff the Preacher Man
10. Andres the Cobbler
11. Honey the Prostitute
12. Mark the Masseur
13. You the Blog Reader
14. Jo the Podiatrist
15. Casey the Uni Student
16. Dream the Horse and Carriage Driver
17. Tamas the Hungarian Accordionist
18. The Dignified Trolley Ladies
19. Alex With The Studded Hot Pink Belt
20. Leaf The Fallen
21. Bel Of The Library
22. Jay And His Big Issue
23. Emma The Adult Shop Cashier
24. Teena, Saver Of Dogs
25. The Luna Park Face
26. Gary The Missing
27. Kristen at the Elephant Bean Cafe
28. Uncle Paul
29. Jess The Mama
30. The Two People At The Checkout
31. Alfie The Pourer
32. Breaking The Rules With Captain Starlight!
33. The Woman In Line At The Bakery A Few Weekends Ago
34. Dog The Dog
35. Julia Gillard The Person
36. Nancy The Badass
37. Bruce From The Psych Ward
38. Jeremy The Costumeless