A postmortem took place on Thursday 4th September. I had dreaded the possibility of this happening, but when it came to it, I was at peace with it. I just wanted it done so that I could get my Husband back. I hadn’t seen him in a week. We had never gone so long without seeing each other, and I knew that as soon as it had taken place, I would be able to touch him again. To hold him, and let him know I was there. They informed me that not only had they done the regular postmortem, making incisions in a ‘Y’ shape on his chest and down his front, they had also had to do a cranial postmortem too, whereby the back of his skull was removed, and his brain etc were examined. This was due to a bump to the head Jason had received at some point during the accident.
I went to visit him at the Mortuary again on the morning of Friday 5th September, the soonest I could see him after the postmortem. A full 8 days since the accident. Again I felt the feeling of terror, what if he had changed a lot and was unrecognisable? What if I was scared? I was allowed to go in the room with him this time. I could touch him. But he wouldn’t be my warm and cuddly ‘big spoon’ like the last time I felt him. He would be cold, and not moving.
As the door of the ‘chapel of rest’ was opened, my stomach was in knots, and I remembered wanting to turn around and walk away. Once again I had to remind myself I couldn’t be scared of him. I walked up to him, through where the glass doors were previously shut, and stopped next to him. He was lying on the metal trolley still, with a similar very white bed sheet over his entire body, up to his chin. His head looked as though it was resting on a pillow, as it was slightly raised. His arms were under the sheet, but is felt for his hand. I was scared in case I disturbed him, or touched something I didn’t want to. There is something nerve wracking about not knowing what is underneath a sheet like that! His tube and neck brace were gone, and there was a feint white line from his mouth, down his cheek where the tube was held in place. His skin looked very slightly mottled, and his top lip looked less full, and a little wrinkly. These are only things that I, as his Wife, would notice though, as i knew his perfect face so well! His lips were slightly parted and I could just see his teeth. His neck and chin looked, sorry to say this Jason, quite fat! He had an excellent triple chin, due to the fact there was no muscle tone there any more. On his chest, in a clear plastic wallet, was our scan photo that I had asked the mortuary staff to keep with him, so he wasn’t on his own. Both him and the baby were in a similar state of limbo, the baby not yet born, and him, not yet gone. Other than those small details of his appearance, he still looked perfect!
I had taken my camera to the mortuary with me. Jason was very used to me always taking photos of him, so it’s didn’t feel at all intrusive. I needed to capture him the way I would last see him, and I wasn’t sure when that would be, so I needed that memory. I needed it to remind me that, when thinking back on how he looked, he didn’t look scary. He didn’t look in pain, or as though he was hurting. I needed the option of looking back to remind myself how beautiful and peaceful he looked. When the children are older, like me, they may believe that dead people look a certain way. When they are old enough, if they need the confirmation that dead people aren’t like you see on CSI, I have it for them. My photos are a huge reassurance to me that he was ok! I also took a photo of him with the scan picture, the only photo I have of Jason and the baby together.
Before I left, I kissed his cold head, and his cold lips. It felt empty.
Jason’s body was ‘released’ on the afternoon of Friday 5th September, after much pushing from me. I wanted him close to home for weekend. He couldn’t spend another weekend on his own miles away. He was brought to the funeral home my Dad had used for my Grandparents. As a 25 year old, I didn’t have much local knowledge of funeral homes, so his recommendation was the one I went with.
I had met with Gordon, the undertaker assigned to us, before the body was released, to discuss plans. I chose his coffin, decided a date and discussed many things that I think took Gordon by surprised. I guess most relatives won’t want to know the ins and outs of the physical ‘preparations’ of a body, but I needed to know everything. I had a million questions. When we got onto the subject of embalming, I didn’t feel like I knew enough about it to make an informed decision, so I asked Gordon to explain the process to me, step by step. He was a bit worried about how I would take it I think, so he asked one of the men who carry out the embalming process to explain it to me. He could tell I just needed the information, so he gave it to me. They basically drain the blood from the body, and re-fill the veins with an antibacterial liquid, that returns colour to the body, and also delays the decomposition process. He told me the pros and cons of it, and was totally honest. I appreciated knowing! I decided to go for the embalming option, after all, it would be 19 days post-death that Jason would have his funeral, I wanted to see him as much as I could, so I needed to preserve his body as much as was possible.
The embalming process was carried out the Monday after his body was released, but unfortunately it didn’t go to plan, due to the fact he had the full postmortem, including the cranial aspect of it. His body wasn’t ‘watertight’ any more. As the embalming fluid was put in, it came right back out. It worked for his body, but his head and face were left looking quite grey in colour. I was notified of this the day after the process, when I went to drop off his outfit. They let me know that they would need to use a little make-up, to give him a more natural colour.
On the way out I bumped into the man who did the embalming. I told him I heard he had a tricky customer, and we laughed. Morbid humour seemed accepted by him, thankfully!
I returned on Friday 12th September, another full week since I had seen Jason. He was dressed in his wedding outfit, in his coffin, in the ‘room of repose’. I had chosen the room myself, as out of six available rooms, this was the biggest one, and the only one with a window. I didn’t want him in the dark all the time.
As I went into the room for the first time, I felt sick. There he was, lying in a box. It felt more real than ever. Before when I had seen him, he could have just been a hospital patient. This time, the coffin confirmed he was dead.
His face looked different. The funeral home staff had done an excellent job, but, he was still different. His skin wasn’t the right colour. His shirt sleeves were rolled down, and his shoe laces were tied wrong. I left the room after about two minutes and went outside and sat on the wall and cried. A lady from the office came out and sat with me. She didn’t need to say anything. Just having her there was enough. She came back to the room with me, and we made Jason look more like him. She lifted his arm for me whilst I rolled his left sleeve up, showing off his awful tattoo of his own name down the entirety of his forearm. Then the right. I untied his shoes and tucked his laces in like usual, I got out his hair wax, and did his hair for him. He always got me to do his hair, so this felt normal, aside from the fact that from the top of the coffin, where I stood to do his hair, I would see the postmortem incision to his head. A perfectly neat circle going around the back of his head, starting and finishing at his ears. It had been sewn or stapled really neatly. I squirted some aftershave onto his chest, and sat with him for about an hour. I talked to him, and rested my hand on his arm.
The baby photo had been placed as though he was holding it in his hands.
I visited Jason 4 times in total at the funeral home. Each time he looked more different. His skin was discolouring, and his face shape was changing. He wasn’t my Jason any more. I sat with him an hour or so each time. I played music on my phone. The songs that meant a lot to us. I talked to him, and showed him photos of the boys.
The night before the funeral I left him with a few things, to take with him ‘in his spaceship’. Toby’s suggestion of cold pizza wasn’t included unfortunately. I put in photos of him, the boys and I. I put in a pair of wellies that both Toby and George had worn when little. I gave him locks of the boy’s hair. I gave him two of our favourite chocolate bars. I left a bright pink button on his heart, that was from my wedding button bouquet. And I also tucked a pair of my knickers into his pocket, that would have been his favourite gift!
The morning of the funeral, Tuesday 16th September, I went to say my goodbyes to Jason. I didn’t want to stay long, so was only there for 15 minutes or so. I took his wedding ring off, and put it on a chain around my neck. I played the song that we had as I walked down the aisle. I told him that I loved him, and I would miss him, but it was time for him to go now. His beautiful body had been through enough. He had changed, and was ready to go. His body didn’t need to endure any more. This was the end. Had the funeral been a week earlier, I don’t think I would have been ready to let him go, because he still looked so perfect, but seeing his body change, helped me accept I needed to let him go now.
I kissed him once more, and touched every part of his body one final time.
I walked to the door, and said “Love you Jason”. Then I shut the door and left my Husband for the last time.
Love you Jason xxxx