Crescendo Of Grief

I found myself sitting by the water just now. Around me is a landscape that can only be described as: picturesque. The sun is shining down bringing with it a warmth to an otherwise crisp spring day. The bouncing lake-top alive with a blue hue from the sky above melting into its dancing peaks. Even a subtle sound of rolling water as the lake meets the shoreline could be heard. This place should be nothing but serenity to me. But as I sat within the curvature of the city bench, my peaceful surroundings gave-way to the nefarious nature of rumination. A medic’s mind took over…

Soon, I was no longer sat along the shoreline of a serene lakefront. I was instead, standing in the living room of a family home, invading their moment of grief. Perhaps even more disturbing was that it was I who had just become the bearer of sad news to their now despondent dwelling.

In front of me, sat along the edge of the family couch, a row of people. Varying in gender and age. The youngest, and the first to have made her agony audible, was a young lady no older than fifteen. Her face contorted with a grimace that emulated the twisted torment that gripped the inside of her. This was followed in suit by the young, but slightly older woman next to her. And down the line it went. A crescendo of grief.

One by one, the fruition and finality of my words “I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do for her – she’s gone,” sank in and took hold of their hearts. I watched, as each one of them broke. Standing behind them was a man. An older, gruff looking man. Standing stoically and seemingly impervious to the news. At least, to an untrained eye, this is how he may have appeared. To me though, to my eyes, from my medic’s mind I could see a man fractured by reality. Outwardly still and motionless, while inside, his soul collapsed like an imploding building. It was his eyes – that’s what gave it away. His gaze firmly planted to a generic spot on the floor. No one was speaking at that moment. My words were the last to be spoken for what seemed like an ungodly amount of time. The reality is that this entire interaction was but mere minutes, but that’s the thing about grief: it can steal both hope, and time away from you…

The older man I was referring to, was the husband. The lady I had referred to as, gone, was the wife. The mother. The line of weeping people in front of me on the couch, her children and grandchildren.

I wanted to say something, but I had no words left to speak. It was obvious that my words had already done enough.

Before I left the home, I passed by a photo, framed along the wall in the hallway. I glanced at it for a fleeting moment as I walked towards the door. I’ll tell you this now, in those fleeting seconds as I passed by the hanging memory, and if I had the skill of an artists brush, I could replicate with unrivaled accuracy the contents of the photo…

It was a photo of the older man. Albeit a much younger version of him. And in front of him about shoulder height, a woman. He was recognizable to me, even in that timeless picture. He stood stoically even back then. There was the slightest of smirks evident to one corner of his lips however. This was not present on the man behind the couch. The woman? She was a stranger to me. A familiar one. I knew who it was, because I had just pronounced her dead…

It was his wife. That photo was their wedding picture. Evidence of love. I describe her as unrecognizable because the woman whom I had just declared dead, was a skeleton of a woman. She was lain in her bed in their room, lifeless and defeated. Vanquished by her adversary – Cancer. The disease left her weighing little more than bone and flesh at the end. She was in her sixties, but she appeared as though she had seen many lifetimes beyond that.

As I was nearing the door to leave, I heard a frightfully sobering sound of a body crumpling to the wooden floor, knees first. It was the stoic man whom had been standing behind the couch. I guess his soul had finished collapsing and had now dragged him to the floor as well. I remained in the doorway for a moment, waiting to see if the family wanted me and my partner to assess and perhaps even transport this bereft man, but I was waved off by another family member. I closed the door behind me, leaving the damage of death behind in that house.

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It was around this time in my rumination that I returned to the present. I began to scan my environment and reacclimate to the serenity that I should be focusing on.

A couple of deep breaths, followed by a subtle jerking of my shoulders, in an attempt at shaking it off, and I was beginning to feel a little more – together. That was of course until, the smell. A faint but increasingly potent scent returned to the deep recesses of my nostrils. It was the smell of damp earth, and the recently deceased. Yes, the newly dead have a smell – a rather unfavorable one.

It was the sight of the water itself that was serving as the precursor to the coming rumination. It forced me to remember another body of water. A river. A river that snakes its way through the middle of a wretchedly blue-collar city. It was a body of water that also served as a tempting destination for those seeking death. Over the years, many bodies have been pulled from it. I am not sure if you have ever seen one, but a waterlogged body is a sight not easily forgotten. It comes with a smell that is equally as unforgettable. Coupled together, it is truly gruesome. The stuff of nightmares… trust me…

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The sight of a body of someone who has just committed suicide by way of jumping into a raging body of water is something uniquely its own in the most horrid of ways. No matter the ethnicity, their skin is always pale, and swollen. Their hair always appears black and matted. It looks like a figure from the underworld. And if you are burdened with the task of being close enough, it smells of damp earth, and death.

I reached for a mint from the tin that I carry with me. Its peppermint helps to break up intrusion symptoms such as these. I placed one mint in my mouth, then another, and for good measure, one more after that. My right cheek now bulging from the inside, forced a resemblance of a hamster as I tried to fight off the rumination demon. It worked – for a moment…

All of a sudden, the tips of my fingers to my right hand began to feel a gentle knocking. Along with that I became painfully nauseous. ‘Fuck, not this one…’ is what the internal monologue of a medic’s mind said to itself. But it was too late. It was that one and I was beginning to remember…

I once responded to a call for a woman who told 911 that she had just delivered a baby – on the toilet… We arrived on scene to a beautiful and opulent family home that was owned by a couple in their early thirties. We pushed passed the front door and navigated the hallway to the living room. In that living room, sitting along the edge of the family couch, a man with the look of pure worry glued to his face, and a distraught woman sobbing a crescendo of grief into her hands.

My partner was attending that day, so he made contact with the woman, and began asking what had happened. I cannot recall her exact words, but it led me to the bathroom to examine the toilet. When I think back on it, the porcelain of the toilet seemed a glowing white. Inside of it, atop the water and below, a ghastly crimson red. Blood. A lot of it… A pungent odor as well. Acidic bitterness with heightened tones of copper slapped the back of my throat.

I was looking into the water to see if there were obvious signs of a fetus. All I saw was blood, and clotted heaps of it, swaying within the bowl like a living Rorschach. “Anything?” my partner called out from the living room. I told him I hadn’t found anything other than blood, and lots of it. Wanting to have a more precise finding, I surveyed the bathroom rapidly, for a toilet brush or something that I could use to break through the surface layer of blood and water and see what may or may not be below. But I found nothing.

I am not sure why, but what I did next is something not from text-book, nor protocol. With a gloved hand, I methodically descended my splayed fingertips towards the water. ‘One quick swipe, just to see if I can see anything,’ I said to myself. That was my logic. I felt I was performing due diligence.

As the very tips of my fingers broke through the water, I turned my gaze away out of instinct. I was now immersed with four fingers into the blood-soaked water. The cold of the water permeated through the glove and wrapped around the bones of my fingers. I began to drag just slightly through the water. I think I did so for approximately a millimetre from one side to the other, and that’s when it happened – the tips of my fingers brushed up against whatever lurked below the blood and water. A knocking sensation against the pads of my fingers forced from deep within me, a rigid jolt through the entirety of my body, starting at the very tips of my right hand.

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I withdrew my hand with concentrated haste, took the glove off, threw it in the garbage and returned to my partner. I don’t know what I touched, I can only imagine… She was after all sixteen weeks pregnant at the time of this now miscarriage. I didn’t tell him what happened, I just informed him of the plentiful amount of blood and clots that were seen.

As I broke free from that rumination, the knocking against my fingertips remained. I balled my hand into a fist, opening and closing with repetition. ‘Go away, go away, go the FUCK away!’ as I repeated that mantra silently to myself, I slapped my fingers against the metal rail of the park bench. Not hard, but hard enough…

I guess the water is not my ally today. Neither are the birds chirping – they sound more akin to the crescendo of grief echoing from my past.

I left the lake, came home and after pacing every-square-inch of my studio apartment over and over, I lifted the screen of my laptop, and began writing. Writing what you are now reading. I was not sitting when I wrote this. I had not intended to write a post, just some thoughts. I ended up standing and writing for the better part of two hours. Just feverishly allowing for my perturbed fingers to strike the keys below. The end result? this, what you are reading about the crescendo of grief, and how I am listening to it on loop today. Unwittingly.

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Happy Sunday to me, I guess…

That’s the thing about PTSD – it does not care what day of the week it is. Nor does it care for your surroundings, no matter how beautiful they may be.

I won’t lie, I am going to go to the pub. The mints are not working. Not as I wish they would. That taste of blood, sickened water, a knocking to my fingers, and the sounds of the newly bereft are tormenting me today.

I won’t get hammered, but I am going to have a few. Wish me luck…

10 thoughts on “Crescendo Of Grief

  1. sorryless says:

    I wish you more than luck, my friend, but I do wish you that.

    It seems any moment, any person, place or thing can be a trigger for your mind. And these moments, first with that old man and his stoic appraisal of the situation that soon crumbled into a heap. I could literally see him from your description, as if you handed me a photograph. The woman’s miscarriage was somehow even more disconcerting to me though. Because to me, it represented the big lie that is perception. We see a nice big house and we suppose the inhabitants live blissful lives. We never stop to consider the lives within those walls and what they have seen and experienced.

    You have seen so much, experienced the dark side many times over. But your words transcend. They teach. And that matters.

    I hope you’re doing okay.

    Peace

    Like

      1. sorryless says:

        Dude,

        I’m happy to hear that! And I hope you are writing something, like every day.

        When you get your book published, can I please have a signed copy? 🙂

        Peace and writing

        Like

  2. michd74 says:

    You are an incredibly talented writer Matt, I hope it provides a bit of solace to put the words on paper. I honestly don’t know how you do what you do but I am grateful.

    Like

      1. michd74 says:

        One little thing to consider because I truly believe narrative matters. I wonder if you would consider saying died by suicide? We commit murder, fraud, crime…
        Suicide is a battle lost with a horrible sickness. Just something to think about.

        Like

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