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Saturday Morning Coffee; Child Killers & The People Who Have to Be Nice To Them

saturday morning coffeeLast night I had my sweetheart, his son, and my son together around the table to enjoy a meal together for Easter. With young adult children and their crazy schedules, family time is precious, and to have both families blend together during these holidays is a true joy.

Simple things like having dinner together every day, and making sure you say, “I love you”, before you head out the door are mandatory at my house. Maybe a little too obsessively-compulsively so.

You see, my career is death and dying. The fragile nature of life is not lost on me, and maybe I have some PTSD going on. Ok, I do have some of that going on,  but I think that’s normal under the circumstances.

Easter dinner with the kids was extra meaningful for me in ways that I’m sure people who don’t work around loss and trauma will never know. Nor should they.

This morning I sat down to my little window, with my coffee and kitty mentor, Mr. Willy Nelson. I cruised over to www.thestar.ca and read the article about Ontario’s Chief Pathologist, Dr. Micheal Pollanen.

Basically, the crux of the article was that Dr. Pollanen has been guilty of confirmation bias;

Among them was confirmation bias — reaching a conclusion and working backward to find evidence to support it, and professional credibility bias — being unwilling to change an opinion once stated.

 

Fine. I get it, and god forbid I was on the receiving end of a case where a professional reasoned that I was guilty and then tried to prove it. Basically, you’d be screwed.

But the point of my little blog here isn’t to crucify Dr. Pollanen. I worked with him. I didn’t really like him – let me be clear, that’s my personal opinion. He seemed to be book-smart-brilliant, and socially awkward. But most of the doctors down there fit that description.

At the Office of the Chief Coroner, one finds that ego-with-a-capital-E runs rampant, and the term Doctor warrants a god-like-untouchable-status to anyone who doesn’t have the same credentials. Humility has no place there. There are few exceptions.

The reality however is that those coroners are human too, and I would argue, because of their perceived status as stronger, more intelligent and wiser-than-the-average-bear, they are at higher risk for PTSD, burn-out and the other psychological monsters-that-go-bump-in-the-night. Sure, they have  access to support, but there is no system in place to monitor it. There is no formal support in place to insure that the mental health of  professionals subjected to the most brutal trauma imaginable is cared for.

During my training, a past Chief Coroner ended his lecture to my graduating class by telling us that if we ever felt that we needed counselling or help coping with trauma, that we should suck it up because that was our job. This was hands-down the worst advice I’ve received in my career.

I too have seen the trauma of a child’s lifeless body marked by abuse, accidental injuries or what appears to be a cold-blooded homicide. I’ve looked into the teary eyes of grieving siblings who are too young to have know what grief feels like.  I’ve done it many times, it’s part of my job.  Unless you’ve physically had to take part in the autopsy or preparation of the body, you do not have any idea what it’s like to be a professional in death care, so stop judging and proselytizing.

You don’t know the deeper level of concern that we bear when our child or spouse takes the car, or is running late. Working with trauma brings you face to face with the fickle nature of mortality every. single. moment. of. every. day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Dr. Pollanen, I’m simply empathizing with him. You might want to try it sometime.

Ask yourself this; In a courtroom full of adults unwilling to admit that they either abused or neglected a child to the point of death, I wonder what the average reader of the morning paper would do? Part of me likes to think that they would rage and deliver a little eye-for-an-eye justice, the other part of me is a passive Buddhist.

So, as I sit here this morning, sipping my flavoured coffee, looking out at children in the courtyard giggling and scurrying during the annual Easter Egg hunt, I ask you to think of Dr. Pollanen as a human being who has dedicated his life to making our society a safer place.

 

 

 

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New Year’s Resolutions for People Who Have Their Priorities Straight

winter-tableTime changes people. I’d like to think that it’s mellowed me and smoothed down some of the rough edges. Not all of them though, the coolest women I know have some pretty groovy edges.

Today I was snuggled in under my fluffy, white duvet, snuggled in between cozy flannel sheets coaxing myself to get up and press the button on the coffee maker when I got that little tapping glass signal that a text message had arrived.

It was from my best friend; The woman I met the first day of high school as we hunted for our new lockers and found ours side by side. We’ve been through a lot together, mostly in spirit and via telephone as we live at a distance from one another.  She never fails to make me smile, or let me know she cares, and I hope I do the same for her. When was I going to see her during the Christmas holidays…hmmm….good question. You see, I’m a mortician, and death is far too graceful to care about holiday time.

At this time of year, I am more aware than ever that I don’t see my friends as often as I would like; Vicki (my mumster) and her crazy sidekick Jim, Cindy and Jacques (my fabulously stylish friends), Virginia (the magic woman who is connected to the universe), Virginia (the crazy pet lady), Darleen (a woman who knows how to conjure the teenage girl in me), Carlo (a woman trapped in a man’s body with more empathy in his babyfingernail than most people have in six lifetimes), my cousin Mark ( one of the only people I share DNA with that I’m not ashamed to call family), my Auntie Penny ( a woman I admire for her zest for life and ability to mix a grand cocktail…. 

Instead of writing about not seeing the people who matter in my life, I think it might be the time to whip up some resolutions for the new year…

  1. Set up social time with all of the above listed people who matter in my life.

  2. Finish my second novel.

  3. Publish my first novel.

  4. Work toward my goal of getting out of this crazy cycle of socially accepted bullshit in order to live in the country in a house with a huge harvest table so all of my friends can gather on a regular basis for intelligent conversation, support and life affirming connection.

  5. Practice my ukulele more.

  6. Write more poetry.

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The Stone Lady Wept

stone angelI don’t cry much any more. You see, I’ve borne witness to more suffering than the average bear, and I am exposed to trauma on a daily basis.

Some people think that it’s hardened me, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that a lot of folks don’t know me that well. By well, I mean beyond a few cocktails, a politely entertaining dinner party, or a quick shag. It’s a precious few who have earned a place inside my lair of friendship and loyalty.

Today I cried twice. No it’s not hormonal, and no I’m not PMS’ing. Valid questions though.

Watching the 60 Minutes report on the use of Sarin in Syria, I cried for the unimaginable vastness of human suffering at the hands of other human beings.

I cried for the little school girl who witnesses her father’s anguish and knows that her happiness comes at a great price.

Is it because we’re too tired to care, or because we’ve become so numb to the suffering around us? Why bother watching the latest 60 minutes episode that challenges us with footage of the massacre in Syria when we can click to a baseball game, the latest drama, or simply have a few glasses of vino and curl up with a juicy spy novel? After all, with the widening of the income gap, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and everyone has to look out for their own.

Sometimes you see so much suffering that your whole world just shatters. There is no bubbly, no handsome men-folk to drool over, no juicy peaches to quench your sweet tooth. There is just suffering, and the irony is, it makes you grateful, complacent even. So grateful you’re afraid to want more, or rock the boat, or risk your family’s happiness to stand up for someone else.

So I wept today for suffering, and for the reasons why our own little corner of the world remains apathetic.

Makes you think about what makes the news and what doesn’t darlings. It’s no accident.