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The Box

During the time that I was a visit nurse, I did a fair amount of death visits.  That’s when the family would call and say the patient had died, then I was to go out and confirm – that is, listen to heart and lungs and confirm that the person had in fact died.

We then helped clean the body and call the mortuary for pick up.  There were the usual pick ups for a traditional funeral.  There were lots of pick ups for an organization that provides cremation services.  There were even a couple of people that donated their bodies to science – one had a rare condition that he and the family wanted studied further after his death and one or two others were for general donation.

No one (that I visited) requested any “green burials.”  I was a pretty big fan of Six Feet Under when it was on HBO (and still am – I consider the last several minutes of the series finale the best thing TV has ever aired) and they portrayed these green burials a couple of times toward the end of the series.  I am very interested in learning more about these types of burials so you can certainly expect a post or two about them in the future.

In my relatively short time doing death visits, one visit stands out from all the rest.  I arrived in the late evening to the patient’s home.  It was very unusual in that the only person there was the patient’s husband.  No other family at all.  My previous experience had been with patients who were surrounded by family members – either at the time they died, or certainly by the time I arrived to confirm.  But this time it was just one person, just him.   Since I didn’t have any other calls at the time I spent some time talking to him about his wife.

At one point he said, “Here, let me show you something” and turned on the light for the backyard.  I was a bit startled to see a casket out there – a plain pine casket.  No shiny polished dark wood trimmed with brass fittings.  Just a casket-shaped box.  Then he told me they’d already had a little mini-funeral for her while she was alive!  Everyone had written something and signed the box.  The plan was to cremate her in it, surrounded by loving words.

I thought that was so clever and so sweet.

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Comments

Very interesting story Gina. Did you enjoy your time doing death visits? Or was it something that became too hard for you?

I enjoyed them. Unless the coroner was involved (for a recent fall, etc) they were technically not difficult. Emotionally they were usually fine, too. People grieving do not make me uncomfortable.

Nice story i enjoyed it. Felt like i was there with you.

i am nursing student in iran .i am happy that i can found your blog. i need some more information about nursing.please

I would love to find some more articles such as these, often times death can come quickly before we see it. It is good to take the life we have now and do the best with what we have as no one knows when they will die, and as the saying says no man has power over the day of his death

Very interesting article, We often see people grieving and these things are a part of life.

What a wonderful way to celebrate a person’s life!! I may keep this in mind for myself in what I hope is a very distant future. I admire you Gina for your work with Hospice. It takes a very special person to comfort these people in their dark times.

Check out my new Nursing humor blog and Instagram account if you like to laugh http://nurseswithoutfilters.tumblr.com/ I hope you like it!

I read a book called Grave Matters about alternative burial methods. It was so interesting and informative about green burials. The most interesting to me was those that had their remains made into an ocean reef to actually become homes for ecosystems of sea life. I work in long term care and transitional care and have dealt with many deaths. Every single one had a mortuary pick them up. I think people need to be better informed about the whole process.

That was quite a moving story, thank you very much for that. Especially the part about the mini-funeral and being surrounded by loving words. So sweet.

Very nice information that you posted. I am a nurse doing the RN to BSN program. As a nurse I was wondering, how to guide family members who are in deep denial of inevitable death?

Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes the best you can do is point out the symptoms that come along with the dying process and hope they get it. Denial is a protective mechanism. It’s not ideal, but it means the person having the denial simply cannot face the reality of the situation and we often have to wait until they are ready. Sometimes the patient dies before they’re ready. We provide as much support as we can.

This story inspires me a lot!Thanks Gina.

very interesting blog post, definitely not something to read at 1 am.

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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