I began making phonecalls and available family descended: my wife Caroline, brothers Martin and
The following day I nipped to the doctor’s to collect a doctor’s certificate which then needed to be taken along to the registrar, along with other documents, so the death certificate could be issued. Interesting contrast in the registrar’s job, only an hour or so before he had been marrying someone.
On dad’s death certificate the registrar put ‘non-small cell lung cancer’, which is rather misleading since he had also had cirrhosis of liver, cancer of the pancreas and quite possibly his bones (died before that could be checked) and the therapies he’d received had supposedly reduced the growth in his lungs. I guess it’s easier to put something like that down rather than ‘trauma of operation to put in a bile-duct stent, trauma of internal bleeding caused by arthritis medicine taken while in a weakened state and the traumas of chemo and radio therapy which were pointless for a man just a few months away from his 80th birthday’. Really, in the days when they used to put ‘old age’ on a death certificate they were closer to the truth. Only an extensive autopsy would bring the truth any closer, and what would be the point of that?Next Martin, my mother and me went to the funeral home to organize things there. While there my mother belatedly produced his donor card. After some discussion we decided that his liver might have made a handy sieve but his other organs were probably a no-no. The only part of him that might have been of use were his corneas, and for some reason the word had been crossed out on the card. I then pointed out that unless there was some big push on toenail transplants there was not much left of him that would be useful. Really, it is rather a waste if your body goes into the grave labelled ‘Hardly Used – One Careful Owner’. Dad certainly got plenty of mileage out of his. You laugh and you use humour, and you cry. What else is there?
Solicitous enquiries then about flowers, death notices, limousines and a religious service (this last received with a snort of laughter by my brother). All of these were rejected by my mother. My dad is dead, what is left is a well used-up husk that needs to be dealt with. Next Monday he is being buried in a woodland grave without marker, in a cardboard coffin. All the family will then celebrate his life at a wake. One of the guys who collected the body said, “Look back a little; look forward a lot,” which is about right.