I went to see Justin yesterday. I actually didn’t want to. I was terrified. Silly really, given that I’ve been around dead people before, I know that they can’t harm us. But I have never seen a person 3 weeks after they have died, and certainly not after the circumstances in which Justin died.
You see he died of what they assume was a heroin overdose in someone’s flat. That somebody, didn’t call the emergency services, instead they panicked. They set about pretending like it didn’t happen, they cleaned and tidied and they left it 2 days. 48 hours. They did nothing for 2 days. And then they called the police and ambulance. By then it was obviously far too late. In all honesty it probably was by the time they realised that he was dead.
Anyway, in my head I couldn’t really get it sorted out. Despite being close to Justin I’d not seen him for months. He lived hundreds of miles away. We’d spoken via text and Facebook and had phone calls but I didn’t see him regularly so I was used to him not actually being there. That made it hard to register that I’d never see him again. That he was gone. Forever. And then the circumstances of his death haunted me. 48 hours. That’s a long time in death. And three weeks had passed since then. I didn’t really build a picture in my head of how he would look, but I imagined that in death he would not be my Justin. The man I have known for nearly 2 decades the man I cared for, who looked after me, who saved me despite not being able to save himself. My mind played nasty tricks on me and it made me scared of someone that I loved.
Anyway Justin’s eldest son was the one who made me go. He was insistent that he had to go and see him and he couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. And so after a few phone calls the mortuary said they would let us visit before he got taken to the funeral home (who coincidentally charge an awful lot to go visit your loved ones). We booked a slot and I picked up the boy and his mum and we went together to the hospital and I was nervous and terrified and didn’t really know what to expect.
The lady at the hospital was amazing. Caring and loving and sympathetic. She took his son through and his mum and I sat sobbing and holding each other admitting that we didn’t want to do this. And then his son came out and instead of crying he was smiling. He called us in and told us it was ok. And so we all went in together and the minute I saw him I knew i had done the right thing.
He looked like he was sleeping. So much so that I almost imagined I could see him breathe. He looked peaceful and calm. Most of all he looked like Justin. And we all laughed at the fact they had clearly taken his dentures out which we’d discussed on the journey there that he looked like an old man without them. And we talked to him and admired the lack of grey in his hair, pondering whether he’d dyed it. We joked about the fact he’d accidentally shaven half an eyebrow off before he’d died and it hasn’t grown back. He told him he should have shaved for our visit and we told him off for leaving us.
And it was a whole bunch of things; funny, sad, heartbreaking, comforting, reassuring and cathartic. None of which is how I expected to feel; but the one thing it wasn’t was scary or distressing. And it helped me to heal. Not a lot, but a tiny fraction. Enough to let me know that in time I will not only feel the acuteness of grief, but the warmth of the light and love he gave to me. That the things we did together and laughed at have not changed in value just because he has gone. And I am glad that I went.