Monday, October 30, 2006

Bonding Over a Corpse

There are things that are supposed to be filled with power and mystery, big events of Life and Death that are supposed to have this huge and never-ending impact on how you see the world and how it relates to you. Some of it's true, some of it's not. Sometimes it's what you expected and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the expectation is more real and more powerful than the event. Sometimes....

Long ago a relatively ingenious killer was paralyzed from the waist down during his arrest. Not wishing to go to prison for the rest of his life as a paraplegic, he looped an end of his sheet around the base of his hospital bed, threaded the sheet through the rails and looped the other end around his neck. He then used the bed's motorized controls to raise himself to a sitting position, strangling himself.

The body was discovered within a half hour and I was tasked to watch the body. To block the door, keep an eye on the crime scene and allow no one to enter or touch anything until the investigators got there. I stared at the corpse for hours until the detectives and the ME got their and did their thing. First professional body. Should have been a big deal. I don't remember who the ME was and just remember that the detective was really professional. My most detailed memory is of the report.

The SAR body recovery was important because it hit me right between the eyes afterwards that I no longer had much in common with regular people. But the event itself was different. One of the enforcement deputies was so freaked by the condition of the corpse that he called for a "critical incident debriefing". That's basically a group therapy session for people who have been through "interesting times". It can be useful. This one was led by two detectives. It became clear, right away, that the veteran SAR 'kids' had seen more bodies and more nasty ones, than either of the detectives. So it was: a man with brains splattered on a cloud -wept evening; a deputy so freaked he was demanding psychological help; an SAR rookie (me) toying with meaning and more disturbed by the reaction of friends than by the dead; and the SAR veterans, two young women, probably no more than twenty years old who are comparing this body to many others in terms of "ick" and "smell" and the sheer danger of recovery and wondering why they were wasting their afternoon. It wasn't the same event and didn't have the same meaning to anyone there.

I saw someone the other day. She was smoking outside the jail. A couple of years ago we stood in the driveway while detectives and the ME examined the body of a woman who had shot herself in the head. The woman was a friend of ours and a co-worker. We talked that day and hugged and reminisced. Then I went back to work, back to watching my deputies and listening to them and maybe listening a little harder for any words that might be hints about dark times. The smoking woman didn't go back to work, not for a long time. She was 'too stressed'.

So I saw her the other day. If you had asked me ten years ago what would happen if two people spent hours over the corpse of a friend, I would have said that some kind of bond would be forged. I was wrong. We shared a moment, nothing more. There is no connection, no similarity, no bond.


Kai Jones said...

You bonded over an experience. The bond lasted as long as you needed it to.

I had a very good friend at a time I really needed one, as did he: we were both going through divorces. As that was just about the only thing we had in common, once we were both remarried and happy the friendship faded.

I have another friend who says there are three kinds of friendships: friendships for a reason (like bonding over an experience), friendships for a season (you have enough in common for a while to keep it going but after enough change in your lives it ends), and friendships for life. I don't entirely agree but those first two categories are ones I've had plenty of friends in.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I guess I'm lucky that I have so many friends that have remained friends through thick, thin, and great distances...

Anonymous said...

Would you want that kind of bond? I mean, would you want to carry that kind of baggage around forever?

That said, I'm trying to figure out why your situation didn't result in a strong emotional bond like, for example, a couple of old war buddies who have fought and bled together.

Thinking back to times when I have watched people die, I feel afterwards like I want to remove myself from the situation and spend time with family, rather than dwell on the death. No bond with coworkers formed there.

Do you think that the level of bond relates to level of adrenalin and fear during the incident?

What if: Cavemen are adrenalized and scared of dinosaur, so they bond together and that increased chances of survival. Whereas, Cavemen bonding over the loss of a clanmember didn't do anything to really increase survival.

Tell me if I'm wrong. I am weak and require validation.

Rory said...

This is one of the times when I feel I can't write everything. What this made clear is that the bond isn't in the event, it's in the response to the event.

If two people see an injured amn and one gives first aid and the other goes through his pockets, if one's default is to think "what can I do to help or prevent" and the other thinks, "what's in this for me, how can I milk this?"... they won't ever really be friends.

Drew- what are you doing in New York?

Anonymous said...

How do you figure I'm in New York? - Drew

Anonymous said...

Or maybe it;s just easier to bond with the dead - less demanding and never any disappointment. And the sense of relief that it wasn't you! And they're quiet, too.