It comes to us all in the end, and it’s not pretty. I’ve seen bodies before but I’ve never been up close and personal so when I rushed to my colleague’s cabin, hot on the heels of the Captain who’d called on my help, shock was inevitable. And instant. For me and the Captain.
When events conspired to leave me alone in the cabin with my deceased colleague, I felt compelled to check for signs of life. This is despite clear evidence that life had been absent for some hours. A small, shocked voice in my mind screamed repeatedly, ‘What are you doing? He’s dead! He is DEAD!’ but I pressed my fingers to his neck, and then his wrist. And then his neck. And then his wrist. I felt something, a tiny, barely-there flutter against my fingertips … but it was the shaking of my own hands.
The Captain returned from calling the emergency services and the two of us stood in a mutual cloud of shock and confusion inside the cabin with the door closed to protect the rest of the ship’s company until we heard approaching sirens. I went to meet the paramedics and brought them in and watched carefully enough to see the expressions of ‘Why on earth have you called us?’ pass across their faces. But bless them, they never voiced it. They just told us that there was nothing that they could do. Moments later the police arrived.
In the past, I have enjoyed jokes about PC Plod and I have giggled at clever references to pigs and bacon but not now. Not since that day when several officers came and calmly took control. They also took away the deceased. Whatever anyone may say about our police force, and some of it is justified, I am truly grateful that I live in a country where one telephone call will bring a brace of skilled and sensitive people to my rescue.
So, thank you British Police Force. I can’t name the officers, or even say where they are because somewhere out there is a grieving family who don’t need to be identified through a stranger’s blog, but if you’re a copper and you’re reading this then you can tell your mates that I appreciate you all just for being there.