WITNESSING LIFE

In July of 2004, Rupert Everett interviewed me for an article he was doing for BBC NEWS. I was not aware of who he was at the time and in fact, mistook his manager for him when they climbed out of the van. It was not one of my better days and it evidently showed, because he described me to his staff as “a man who had witnessed too much of life”. Those were days when we were having many deaths from AIDS and I don’t doubt that his description of me was quite accurate, however, that was nearly 17 years ago, and much has changed since then and things got much more positive.

Up until a few months ago, things were running quite smoothly… our kids were doing well in their studies, even though school is still out. Healthwise everyone is good, and even though donations are down, we are doing okay, COVID-19 of course presented some problems, but life continued as normal for the most part. Even when we opened up our Volunteer dorm for 28 quarantined neighbors we were still doing okay and so when they asked to use our crematorium should someone die from the Virus, we agreed to do it… not realizing just how much need there would be.

Deaths don’t always occur during office hours and for some of the families, it is important to collect the bones on the same day as the cremation. Because I know the importance of doing things right on these once-in-a-lifetime occasions, I try my best to follow their wishes, even though it may mean staying up long after my bedtime to clean out the hot furnace so that the bones can be collected.

It is eight-o-clock in the evening on the 16th of June and the ambulance has just dropped off our 15th victim in the past month and a half. I don’t mind doing the cremations… but my concern is more for the family than it is for the victim. Knowing that their loved one was treated with respect and dignity is very important, primarily because Memories last a lifetime for those left behind.

I doubt I will ever meet Mr. Everett again, but I think if he saw me tonight he would come to the same conclusion that he did 17 years ago.

Update… Number 16 died just hours after writing this and we started the cremation at six-o-clock this morning… number 17 is waiting its turn, in the back of a parked ambulance near the crematorium and two more have died and will be coming at some point today,

It is eight-o-clock in the evening on the 17th of June and we are waiting for our last cremation of the day to arrive from the hospital. Five cremations in 24 hours is a record for us… but I hope we never even come close to breaking it again.

Thanks for stopping in!

The Partners

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2 Comments

    • wdmatthysse@gmail.com

      Thanks for the comment Helen but I am not clear on your analysis. Which parts are unnecessary and stupid? The precautions or the dying? I am sure you are not referring to the cremations since they were all done only on dead people and therefore were necessary, I agree that the precautions are overdone and costly but because of the fear, no one will do the cremations. The professional traveling cremator teams would lose their business if people found out they did someone who was positive… Doctors and other professionals are losing their private practices once they start working with COVID Teams. I have nothing to lose and therefore am happy to be able to fill in a space that no one else wants… plus it gives me the opportunity to treat the victims and their relatives with the respect they deserve, just as we did for people dying from AIDS.

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