Dear Gudrun Neil

The first person that I had to write a death certificate for was a 19 year old boy from Tonga. His family had come to Newcastle for a religious ceremony. He did one of the classic dangerous things. He went swimming after he'd been drinking alcohol...and he drowned.

When they brought him in he'd been dead for a few hours. He had an absolutely perfect body. He was a perfect 19 year old with a fabulous physique, lovely golden skin...but he was lying there with his eyes open and his eyes didn't look right. The corneas had gone cloudy. But apart from that you'd think you only had to touch him and he'd turn round and ask you what you were doing.

His family found it really hard to believe that he could have died. But as soon as you got close to him you knew that he was dead. It was only when you first glanced at him that you might have thought that he was still alive.

There's something different about a dead body, it's just so still. Even then when you think they might wake up--you know they won't but you kind of hope...

Sometimes it's hard to believe that a person is dead just by looking at them.

The other thing that's strange when people are dead--It's very hard to believe that they really are gone and even weeks after you find yourself thinking that I must ring up so and so or I must go and see so and so.

It's all right if you feel like this. Every one does. It's all right if you find yourself talking to them afterwards.

It's good to see someone when they're dead. It helps you say goodbye and to know they're really, truly dead. Put something in the coffin that means something special to you. Go to the funeral, even if it's painful. Even after that, or a long time later, sometimes it's still hard to believe that it's true.

Yours sincerely 

Virginia R. Claire

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