They say the best conversations take place late at night.
I’m not exactly sure who “they” are, but if given the opportunity I would like to let them know this isn’t necessarily true
Late night conversations can be very unwelcome and spooky if the person was pronounced dead minutes earlier!
It’s Friday night and naturally, I’m eating cake, sipping Red and tapping away at my keyboard… and I would like to tell you about my very first ‘Gurgler’.
Warm wax pooled at the base of my candles as I blew out the flame and headed to bed. I was on call, and had waited until late before cleansing my face of make up and releasing my corporate hair bun. Freshly showered, curly hair smelling of coconut and bed linen embracing my tired limbs, I tucked the work mobile phone under my pillow and switched off my lamp. I snuggled in, moaning happily. I had a good feeling that I would not get a call out, and perhaps a good night sleep was on the cards.
My eyes snapped open and I stared into the black towards my ceiling.
‘No…!’ I whined and squashed my pillow over my head as if this would stop the phone from ringing.
There was no way out. I had to answer.
‘Yep,’ I mumbled.
‘We have a transfer,’ Byron, my new on call partner sounded afraid on the other end of the line.
Well, duh! Why else would you be calling me at 1am?
The poor guy. He had only just started with the company this week. My previous work buddy was accustomed to my mumbles and grumbles on the late night calls, even bringing a blanket and a thermos of coffee for me on pick up. He recently retired and the company hired Byron: an ex military soldier with biceps that threatened to break open his Funeral Director’s suit.
I muttered my address to him and dragged myself out of bed.
A puff of blush, slick of lip gloss and hair swept up in a messy bun, I slipped into my suit, kissed Cupcake on her strawberry scented fluff and waited outside for the headlights.
Before too long, the van pulled up and I jumped in, heavy metal blasting. Sensing my grumpiness, my new partner switched radio stations, fiddled with his tie in the revision mirror and smiled weakly at me.
‘Sorry,’ I yawned, leaning back in my seat. ‘Before midnight, I’m fine. After twelve, you have to deal with a nightmare. Where are we off to?’
‘South side,’ he chirped.
Over the next fifteen minutes as we chatted about the previous funeral homes he had worked for and the soaring prices of fuel, I slowly began to wake up and by the time we reached the lovely looking home with porch lights glowing, I was ready to tackle our task.
A young family met us at the front door of Asian descent around thirty years old. Holding onto one another sadly, they nodded towards to the bedroom at the end of the dimly lit hallway.
‘Down there,’ the sniffling lady motioned. ‘My father. He hasn’t been well. He caught sun cancer from your sky here.’
‘It’s ok,’ I rested my hand on her quivering arm. ‘We will take good care of dad for you.’
I noticed Byron’s aftershave and how great his hair looked even at this time of night, as we walked down the hallway, fried rice and soy sauce warming my nostrils.
We walked into the sprawling bedroom where in a king size bed, lie a tiny man with a giant tumour growing from his face. His eyes had been taken over by the growth and all that could be seen was his small mouth, lips slightly parted and head rested to one side.
‘I’ll go get the stretcher,’ Byron said softly, ‘You do the paperwork.’
This was working out great already. Not even half way through our first transfer, and Bryon was taking the lead.
Transfers are one of my favourite tasks in our job. The anticipation of not knowing where you will go to next, the scene you will be faced with and the variety of homes you visit, from tiny cottages to million dollar mansions with city views is quite exciting. You are constantly tackling challenges; staircases and unruly dogs, a crime scene perhaps or slippery pathways…never a dull moment! When a family member hugs me, thanks me as I close the back of the van with their loved one securely in place on the stretcher, I feel like I have helped them in some way, made a difference to the world, even if they do see me as the Grim Reaper, or the ‘body snatcher’. (Yes, I have been called this many times). I do love the transfer. However, at 1 am in the morning, I am more than happy for someone else to take the lead. At this hour, I’m likely to stumble on my words; ‘Mum is in safe hands, now’ when it had been Dad who just died.
The young couple decided to stay in the kitchen as Byron and I proceeded with the transfer. We fastened the name tags around Mr. Quan’s slim wrists, covered him gently with the sheet, and slid him from his plush mattress to our collapsable stretcher and into a body bag.
Then it happened.
The talking. (Okay, talking is a bit far fetched but, I am a story teller).
As I pulled the strap tight around Mr. Quan’s chest, a deep moan escaped from within the body bag.
In the mortuary, I have heard plenty of small gurgles and moans when leaning on their chests while closely examining the make up or mouth suture, but nothing of this calibre!
Mr. Quan continued to talk as his daughter entered the room to sign paperwork. Oh God, please don’t notice I thought to myself, sweat beads breaking through my Napoleon Perdis foundation. Once boxes were ticked, condolences offered and stretcher fitted in the back of the van, we drove off into the night, my new transfer and I partner bonded in laughter at the chatty Mr. Quan.
Assuming you have never collected a deceased person late at night, I will explain a little why this conversation occurred.
When a person dies there is still air trapped in the lungs, and when you move the body the air will escape and this is the deep and sometimes startling moaning.
Don’t fear! This is not stuff of the zombie apocalypse…
Noise from a dead body is perfectly normal, (well, normal for us!!!)
I just wanted to share my late night adventure with you!