Imagine the panic that shall rush coldly over you, when you breathe your last breath, turn blue, and the doctor in a hospital pulls the sheet over your face. Some stranger rolls your gurney, one of its wheels wobbling, down the back passageway, along the ramp that ends at the morgue; suddenly it is very cold, and you realize you are naked. Its ok they have seen every sort of dead naked there is. You may feel embarrassed being naked in front of everyone, but no one will make fun of your body—unless they get bored.
Someone soon comes and twists the wires of a toe tag, which you feel constrict around your big toe. The toe tag hangs there motionless from a cold stiff toe. This is the moment that the surreal realization hits you. You are dead.
This is the tormenting ambiguity, which each human being harbors—it is the cruel “what if ?” Will you be totally alert and aware of everything? Yes, very much so, you are more awake than you ever have been when you were alive
You lie in the morgue on a cold concrete slab, and you scream without a sound, in terror, like a dying ghost, as the coroner uses sharp tools to determine the cause of your death. Such shining, stainless steel precision surgical blades he has, their edges glint with the light; then he cuts you open, navel to sternum, and proceeds excising and pulling your organs out, weighing them. Your liver, your heart, your kidneys, your stomach…they must make sure no one poisoned you, so they cut open your stomach and look around in there, probing and palpating the insides of the organ with gloved fingers.
You may feel a splitting headache; as all the sharp metal instruments used so hastily tend to collide. They make a tinkling din of cold, stainless steel, an orchestra of post mortem agony…but it is the only autopsy you will ever have to endure–unless a year from now, a judge orders that they exhume your skin sloughed, decaying and festering body, and do the autopsy all over again, because the police suspect foul play after the fact.
At some point during your autopsy, you may feel a tremendous, teeth-shattering vibration, as the radial bone saw cuts and whines against your skull, and the tiny sharp-edged bone chips fly. The coroner looks at the scale, and then writes down the exact weight of your brain, three pounds-four ounces.
No one puts the removed parts of you back in; they all go into a medical waste barrel. Some person gets paid seven dollars an hour to burn these remnants of you. The coroner leaves the gaping cavity in your body open. He will just sew up the long deep slices. But before he does this, at least you can rest assured that he will pack the hole that sinks into you, filling it with limitless blood soaking gauze; it swells with the blood, and later, with the embalming fluid, so that it expands to fill the empty hollow, which looks better at your funeral.
After the autopsy you appear so lifeless to everyone involved in the handling of your remains, and perfunctorily, two burly strangers, the coroner’s lackeys, lift you and load your rigid corpse into the metal storage drawer in the morgue. You feel the movement and the crash, as your metal box slams shut and the darkness engulfs you. You are not the morgue’s problem anymore. Some stranger will transport your abandoned corpse to the funeral home.
The funeral is horrible to watch happen around you, when people walk by your coffin, that one last time, to look at your body—they make ghoulish faces. You can scream at them, but they will not hear you. The same applies to the burial.
What emotions will fill you when you cannot move or speak, but can only watch as people bury you, people who cannot hear your desperate denials and begging, which scream inside your head. You make soundless shrieks that only get louder while the gravediggers lower you into the black maw of the pit. And then they repeatedly shovel dirt in your face as you look up at them.
What feelings will be upwelling in your heart, lying there alone, at the nethermost of the cold melancholy depth of despair? How claustrophobic will it be lying trapped on all sides, as you feel crushed by the unfathomable heaviness of black earth that fills your eternal grave?
What tricks does your mind play, what do you suppose you will see, haunting you, sealed inside your coffin with you, there in the eternal blindness of light? I will only tell you, it is not going to make you feel at harmony when you see what appears before your face.
Is your dead body infinitely aware of the suffocating restrains of its closed coffin? Yes, of course. Can you breathe at all in that asphyxiating small space? No, not very well at all, you just have to suck in so hard, and the air does not really get much into your lungs. The air goes quickly. If you do have any air left, do you really think you can make it last forever?
Or don’t you think it is much more likely that you will break your fingernails off, scratching at the lid of the coffin, trying to get to where you can take just one more breath?