Diary

Absent Corpse

16 July 2006 | Diary

It occurred to me this afternoon that I’ve never seen a dead body. Is that weird?

I’ve never been to an open casket funeral; never been in or near a serious road accident; never discovered a recently deceased old relative; and never been witness to a murder, a drug overdose or a heart attack. I’m like a sort-of reverse Ishmael, who in Moby Dick is plagued by the presence of death. If anything I’ve been plagued by the presence of life, or rather non-death. “Call me leamhsI.”

The realisation of my corpseless life occurred to me after reading a few excellent and moreish chapters of Mr. Gray’s corpse-related 1992 novel, Poor Things, in which a woman is brought back from the dead, Frankenstein fashion. As a bookmark for this novel, I employ a Christian propaganda pamphlet headed with the rather odd question of “Are you Dead or Alive?”

Even horse-faced Harry and William have had the pleasure. I’m sure most of my peers and relatives have seen bodies by now as well. My friend, Adele, grew up around corpses, being the daughter of an undertaker. My sister (a podiatrist) has had elderly patients die in the chair as she’s operated on their feet and has even dissected dead human feet as part of her education. My mother as a nurse saw a million dead bodies. In the war, my grandad saw his share. My constant companion and best friend Stu, as a Catholic, has been to open casket funerals on countless occasions. It seems that everyone has seen a cadaver but your humble narrator.

I’ve never even been to a funeral. I suppose I should consider myself lucky.

I can’t help but think that this inexperience has allowed me to become quite flippant about death. When George A. Romero films and Stephen King novels are the closest you come to seeing dead people, it kinda trivialises the whole prospect. I do make a lot of cancer jokes.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a morbid fascination with corpses. A necrophiliac, I am not. If anything I’m a necrophobe: by nature quite squeamish about such things. But I feel somewhat left out.

Have you seen corpses, dear reader? Did it provide you with perspective? Was it beautiful? Frightening? Awe-inspiring? Or just gross?



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