As I predicted, I didn’t have the capacity in any way in order to write my twice weekly blog posts in January. Much like everyone else, in whatever nature you experience, my days are all very much the same and repetitive. To try to write anything interesting about my own experience that wasn’t full of sadness and frustration would have felt near impossible. The pandemic continues to challenge the NHS and the mortuaries beyond their own capabilities but day in and out we are showing up and trying our best to do our jobs in the ways that we can.
One thing I have noticed is that a number of my friends seem to be much more comfortable in communicating via voice messages than text messages or actual phone calls. I feel this too. It is much more natural to speak a message than type it out, plus it’s so much easier to interpret someone’s context and tone of message when you hear it. I think it’s also just bloody lovely to hear the voices of the people I miss. I’m tired, I’m frustrated and I’m sad. But I want to assure you that I am okay and do feel positive despite all of this.
Most notably this week, Clive Myrie a BBC journalist visited the nearby Royal London hospital and presented a report on BBC news which has now been seen by many and reported in other news outlets. The remarkable thing about this report was that he included a visit to the mortuary and a remarkably poignant conversation with an APT. I cannot watch this conversation without crying. I cry because I feel the same, I cry because I know exactly how that APT feels. I also cry because it feels like a huge release of such emotion to be seen, to be felt and to be heard in this way.
At one point in the footage, Clive asks if the work feels like a conveyer belt. Hannah, the APT, replies that it does indeed but the thought of making that comparison is nothing she wants from her work. This is an absolutely perfect way of describing the aspects of the role I have struggled to put into words. In order to provide the care we provide for the deceased, at a very basic level we need to ensure each of those people have a refrigerated space of their own. This can mean moving people between storage areas, between sites and out to funeral directors as soon as that is feasible. In a truly awful way, a conveyor belt is a perfect analogy yet still a horrific way of thinking of what we are doing.
The reception of Clive’s report is visible online where a large number of APTs have openly thanked him for the recognition of our role. I like the fact the original report called us morticians and he was very humble to correct himself in print and on television when our professional title was pointed out. This also drove me to have faith that one day we might not have to explain our official title every time it is said outside of our circle.
If you would like to see the video of Clive Myrie’s report it can be seen here – ‘Mortician: ‘How do you prepare for people dying and dying?’. There is also a written article in The Times which unfortunately does sit behind a subscription/paywall.
I remain to take the stance that I have no idea what the next months, weeks or even days will bring. I try to take one day at a time and be as present as I can. I was taught to do this in counselling before this all began, but it has never felt more necessary or needed than now. So from my current position, sat cross legged on the floor of my study with an empty coffee mug and listening to Phoebe Bridgers, I wish you safety, sanity and hope. I hope to write again soon.