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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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.dictionary with letter A

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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