Do not shed tears when I have gone
But smile instead because I have lived.
Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I’ll come back.
But open your eyes and see all that I have left behind.
David Harkins (1981)
Some of the saddest jobs we ever do as ambulance workers are to suicides. You could argue that when patients are ill, their final demise is, to a certain extent, expected. When loved ones are snatched away suddenly, through trauma or exceptional circumstances, conflicting emotions of anger and/or gratitude, that there was no suffering, may help to ease their passing. Suicide, however, mainly brings blame and self retribution on those loved ones left behind. How could someone they loved so much feel that their life’s problems could only be resolved in the most ultimate way.
Why? Why? Why?
This morning started with a call given as ‘cardiac arrest’. The patient, an elderly gentleman, had been found by his wife. He’d been dead a while by the time I arrived. The scene suggested suicide though subsequent police investigations left the possibility of other circumstances. In the end things were handed over to CID and Scene of Crimes. I suspect that it’s mostly a case of ‘arse covering’ but I may be wrong; consequently I’m unable to provide any precise details.
They were a traditional couple. She cooked and kept house. He was the primary bread winner. He ran the household and served as patriarch to their large, extended family. He was the rock on which she built her life and hopes; and now he’s gone. None of the family had any insight as to why. Although he’d had a recent illness he was on the road to recovery and plans were well in-hand for a jolly festive season with children and grandchildren. No explanation; no note; no inkling that anything was so desperately wrong.
Whilst I was still at the scene many of the family arrived. It’s heartbreaking to watch grown men break down and cry. I can’t even begin to understand what they must be going through. They must find me terribly insensitive as I go through all the necessary procedures and paperwork before handing things over to the police.
My thoughts are with the family.
Just to demonstrate how emotionally detached we all become. Following my departure from the scene, I then spent a very pleasant hour or so with a charming WPC at the local nick, providing a statement as I was first on scene. On the down-side, the tea they serve is crap.