Blogs by Albert L Isaac
Dead Serious - Life in the Morgue
1/29/2009 5:08:45 AM
Thoughts on decades working with death
I used to be paid for being serious. The most serious kind of serious. The seriousness of Death.
Daily, I was part of someone else’s tragic nightmare; the death of a loved one. There was the need for humor, even during those frank, dark discussions I had with the survivors. But it was delicate, and never used in a way that offended. That’s a fancy trick, too, let me be the first to tell you.
For 20 years I worked with the dead – but more importantly, I worked with the living. It was not a job that utilized my creativity. Or my sense of humor. In some ways it has altered my sense of reality. My sense of normalcy. Yet, despite the darkness of the job, there was laughter.
My humor erupted like a volcano when I was away from the death house. In the cafeteria, where I dined with fellow hospital employees, we would laugh uproariously at all manner of human folly. If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry, I often told myself.
And this is true. I witnessed untold horrors – actually, never witnessed directly. It was in the hours, days and sometimes years after the fatal event that I saw the atrocities and trauma, the accidents, homicides, suicides that had snuffed the life out of so many people. Thousands. Literally.
Airplane crashes, interstate pedestrian fatalities (ever seen a human body run over by a few dozen vehicles?), fires, bombs, gunshot wounds. There were other names for these deaths, although I did not use them often. There were jumpers, crispy critters, floaters – the list goes on, but few come to mind now.
All of these people, gone, now in a place none of us shall escape, at least not while in our bodily form.
The death of this shell.
I contemplated life every day, while working in the morgue. And I contemplated death. I was reminded daily that the Reaper was coming. And I would tell myself I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was, however, afraid of other people dying. Those close to me, one day arriving on that stainless steel gurney, unannounced, for me to have to deal with up close and personal.
While in that profession, I never had to deal with the death of anyone close, fortunately. It wasn’t until I’d left the job that my friends and relatives began dying. I left at just the right time, it would seem, for in short order my friend and his young nephew died in a fiery airplane crash; my future sister-in-law by brain aneurysm; another close friend by positional asphyxiation; my father-in-law by emphysema.
The Reaper was busy.
I was glad to be out of the morgue, away from the nightmare – only now the nightmare had come to me. I was the one calling the Medical Examiner’s Office looking for answers. I was the one going to the funerals. I was the one losing people close to me.
Things are different now. Now I get paid for being creative. For being funny. Maybe not all that funny, but being paid nonetheless. I make a living with my writing and photography. For creating magazines to be read by thousands. Now I get to touch people on an entirely different, yet still personal level.
Twenty years in the morgue prepared me for something. I’m still trying to figure out what that might be, but I know it includes at least one book about my experiences.
And hopefully, I’ve gained some insight.
It took 25 years to learn there are jobs different from trauma, strife and sorrow. I’m still adjusting to life in the real world.
Only now I have to wonder: which is more real?
More Blogs by Albert L Isaac
New Novel - Thursday, July 07, 2011
Bodies - Friday, June 05, 2009
Paranoia - or not - Thursday, May 21, 2009
Dead Serious - Life in the Morgue - Thursday, January 29, 2009
Giving Thanks - Friday, November 28, 2008
Thoughts on an Autumn Afternoon - Tuesday, April 01, 2008
The Power of Positive Thinking - Monday, March 31, 2008
WRITING ONE O - UH-OH - Monday, November 28, 2005
Writing Writing Writing - Wednesday, August 03, 2005
So, I did it - Thursday, April 21, 2005