Cranium

Cranium: (n) the part of the skull that encloses the brain.

 After nearly six years of living in a vegetative state, unable to communicate, in what appeared to be constant discomfort and pain, my son, Joshua, died of pneumonia.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

We were traveling at the time, and found ourselves in the state of Washington. The state law required an autopsy. I was in no mood to object. I certainly did not want to interrupt my grieving by arguing over a body that had long ago lost its impetus, and now was finally granted rest.

After a couple of days, the coroner called me on the phone and told me I could come in and meet with him to go over the results of his findings. We had a lovely chat.

When I arrived at the surprisingly small facility, he invited me back to the morgue where he was working on a murder victim who had just come in. I don’t know whether I was supposed to be there—if it was legal or proper, but I think from our conversation on the phone, the coroner had developed some tenderness and empathy, and felt like we could talk.

Shortly after I arrived in the room, where there was a body covered with a sheet, the coroner was beckoned to take a phone call.  I sat in a chair, waiting for his return, trying to mentally gain perspective on the past few days.

I was peering around the room when my eyes suddenly fell on a skull sitting on a shelf. A cranium.

For some reason, even though there was plenty of light in the room, I felt all alone and frightened. I wanted to run away. I had no business being in that room, and certainly not in my present broken condition.

When the coroner didn’t return, I stared at that skull. That cranium. A bony case which once held a brain—a mind filled with millions of thoughts, feelings, connections, purposes and perhaps a poem memorized at age five.

It was surreal.

How could we humans be so alive, so full of wonder, inspiration and creativity, and then, with the removal of blood and oxygen, turn into what appeared to be a cheap prop from a horror flick?

I cried.

Part of me was crying for my lost son. But some of me was weeping for us, as humans.

How noble our creation.

How fragile our pose.

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Coroner

Coroner: (n) one who investigates deaths

Then there’s the joke.

“I went to the morgue to see the body. I asked the receptionist where I might find the corpse. She pointed to her right and replied, ‘Just around the coroner.’”

(I didn’t say it was a funny joke.)

But when you talk about things like the coroner, you have to use some humor. A little tongue-in-cheek is helpful.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I have personally dealt with an actual coroner only once in my life. My son, who had been involved in a hit-and-run accident six years earlier, which had left him in a vegetative state, suddenly developed pneumonia and died in about a four-hour period.

We were in the state of Oregon, and according to their statues, anybody who dies that quickly has to be observed by a coroner and have an autopsy.

I probably should have looked up “coroner” and found out what was involved with the profession, but there was no Internet at that time and my encyclopedias were packed away back home, two thousand miles away. So I entered into the whole situation very ignorant.

He was a nice enough fellow—just creepy enough to fulfill the parameters of the occupation. I was emotionally disturbed from the death of my son, so I began to yammer without much awareness, trying to explain to the gentleman some of the extent of my loss. In doing so, I offered a very child-like request. “Please be gentle with him. He’s been through a lot.”

I remember the look on the chap’s face—a combination of tenderness, surprise, confusion and mercy. For after all, he had already done the autopsy and chopped my young son into many pieces.

Fortunately, I didn’t think of that in the moment. I was granted a blessed ignorance, and a bit of grace, by a man who had to deal with death every day and realized that I would not benefit from any further understanding of his plight.


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Aorta

dictionary with letter A

Aorta: (n) the main artery of the body, supplying oxygenated blood to the circulatory system.

“Take no thought.”

It was an admonition from a Nazarene-carpenter-turned-itinerant-preacher many centuries ago. He contended it was good to not think about things we cannot change. It was not approval for lethargy or indifference, but a warning that the same fussiness that causes us to be concerned about our lacking is the thief that quickly steals them from us.

That’s the way I feel about the word aorta. I need to not think about it too often.

Realizing that my life is at the mercy of a small clump of skin and blood vessel which has been given a job of carrying my lifeline of survival is just about enough to drive me crazy.

I know I have a heart–I mean, a physical one. But the best way for me to maintain my emotional and spiritual heart is to not spend too much time studying or considering my physical one. Does that make sense?

We are frighteningly fragile, and but can on occasion fall a hundred feet from a cliff, bounce and rise to our feet. I do not know how it works.

Yet I am very disconcerted by a report given from a coroner which says, “Well, all I can tell you is that his aorta just wore out.” They shouldn’t do that.

I remember when I was a little kid, I watched a show on television where someone died from swallowing his tongue. Even though that seemed implausible to me, I spent the entire night wide awake, pinning my tongue to my cheek with my teeth.

Maybe I’m a little bit weird, but I think some things are better left to be studied in the halls of academia, tested on and practiced in theory rather than discussed in great detail.

I have an aorta … but I would rather not talk about him.

 

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix