Something’s not quite right…


Yesterday I had the unhappy job of making a death notification, and I screwed it up. A guy called us from Texas and said that his retarded little brother had called him and said he couldn’t wake up Mommy. They live in our jurisdiction, so we sent some paramedics out to check her welfare. While they are on scene, I get a call from a cop at the PD in Texas who says the lady is one of his officer’s grandma, and could I tell him what’s going on. As I’m talking to him, the medics confirm that the old lady is dead, and they request a deputy for the coroner’s case.

I don’t want to give this other cop the runaround, and I know that if I try to stall him he’ll know what’s up, so I start telling him that it’s not good, and he says “Hold on, I’ll put her on.” and now I’m talking to the granddaughter and I’m already committed.

Now, we like to do this in person, not on the phone, cause you never know what’ll happen. But I know I’m already screwed, and as much as I don’t want to give the first cop the runaround, I’m even less inclined to give it to the granddaughter. And I figure, well, she’s a cop, she’ll do okay even though it’s rough.

So I tell her that her grammy is dead.

And she freaks. Screaming, sobbing, the whole enchilada.

Man, when that other cop picks up the phone….he wants to homicide me right there.

“What the fuck did you just tell her?”

“Well, asswipe, what did you think I was about to say?”

“Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you have any sense at all?


Nope. I guess not.


The best laid plans….


One of the things that this job will do to you is make you a little hard, on the surface anyways. I feel bad about what happened, but only in the way a sociopath might- that is, on an intellectual level I’m sorry for the girl, and I’m chagrined that it went down so badly, that I handled it so poorly.

But it doesn’t sink in. Not where it counts.

I’ll tell you what does sink in, though. The image of that poor simple man shaking and shaking his Mommy and knowing something bad was wrong. I see him wandering around the house, crying and biting his lip, rocking back and forth in the chair by the kitchen table while he dials his brother’s number by memory…

That gets in pretty good.



If it’s an afterlife, I’d like to be like a angel that comes and stands over a person at a time like that. Even though you can’t touch them, you want to, and you spread your wings over them.

Maybe you can whisper something their soul can hear, like a gospel song heard from a long ways off, or the sound of birds busting out from a bush and taking flight, that rush and rustle of hard little packages of life, beating their wings and climbing into the light…