Saturday, 9 July 2016

Living with Death

Even as I stood staring up at Louise's body, numbed, bewildered, shocked and silently screaming in despair, I somehow found space in my brain to recognise the irony of the situation. In the course of her professional career Louise had seen, examined and dissected numerous dead bodies. Death was, to her, an unremarkable commonplace. While I returned home from work on an evening and talked over the dinner table of office politics, Louise might casually mention a death certificate she had signed or a patient with a terminal diagnosis as if it was no more important, and possibly less so, than my trivia. I came to understand that this normalisation of death and tragedy was not callous disregard for the suffering of fellow humans but a necessary coping mechanism common to all doctors. But now here was I encountering death close up for the very first time - and it was on a far more personal and horrific scale than anything Louise had ever witnessed herself. Now it would be me that needed to develop a similar coping mechanism.