Autopsy: (n) a postmortem examination to discover the cause of death or the extent of disease.
The State of Washington demanded that an autopsy be performed on anyone who died suddenly.
It’s a good rule.
But when my thirteen-year-old child passed away from viral pneumonia and we were touring through the state, it seemed arduous, painful and intrusive.
My son’s name was Joshua. He had been hit and run by a car six years earlier, leaving him with a severe brain injury, in a vegetative state.
No one is ever ready for such a responsibility.
We did our best–but after six years, his body began to wear out, giving up its purpose.
Perhaps better care givers could have sustained his inertia, but when he developed pneumonia, the doctors suggested we refrain from heroic measures and let nature take its course.
Given only antibiotics and fluids, he passed away in less than twelve hours.
The State of Washington was not suspicious of our care. The autopsy was just a necessary step to confirm the absence of foul play.
Three weeks later, after Joshie was long entombed, I received the coroner’s report in the mail.
It was fascinating.
It told a story we did not know.
It told us about a little boy who was fatally struck down in the street and possibly should have gone on to his Maker that evening, but because of the advances of medicine, was able to be sustained without being healed.
His brain showed no signs of cognitive activity and his little body was wracked with the evidence of much pain. His organs had shrunk and he was more or less a living experiment.
My mind flashed back to the six years we carried him around, whispered in his ears, hugged him, kissed his face and desperately tried to feed nourishment into his body.
Was he aware of any of it?
Was there any spirit left to retrieve kindness?
I don’t know.
For you see, an autopsy doesn’t report that.
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