It was the milkman that missed her. The milkman who phoned the police and told then that he hadn't seen her for a few days.

The police were already there when we arrived. The house was secured, the battering ram was fetched and used on the wooden door. A panel popped out and we were able to enter.

She was lying face down on the floor, old and naked and unmoving. One look was all it took to realise that she was beyond our help.

So we stood over her body. The police and us, trying to make sense of her death. Was she an alcoholic? There were a few drinks bottles around the place, but not the 'usual suspects' of strong lager or cider. Was it violence? The only marks on her body were from where her blood had pooled. Was it suicide? There was no note, no empty pill packets. Ill health? We couldn't find any medicines.

It looked like she had just died, in earlier times it would have been called 'old age'. Now, probably 'cardiac arrest'. The result the same, the heart just runs out of beats.

Her front room was cluttered with her belongings, the doors at the top of the stairs were secured. The police entered them, there was nothing there except the hints of a long lost husband, a man's coat, the hospital appointment card in his name, the bedrooms covered with cobwebs.

Downstairs then, that was where she lived and slept. Ate and drank. And drew.

The walls were covered with her drawings, beautiful colourful pencil drawings of all subjects. She had an eye for the human face, she obviously liked to draw wildlife. Everywhere you looked there was a small colourful picture, out of place in this dark and crowded room.

An unfinished drawing rested on a table.

And at the bottom of each drawing her signature.

We joked with the police, especially the probationer. We chatted and did what we needed to do, the paperwork, the reports, contacting the coroner. We looked through her papers, to see if there was someone to contact, or some reason for her death. To the outsider our chat would seem disrespectful, but to us it's just life, another one gone soon to be forgotten as we move on to our next job.

Still she lay on the floor, we couldn't move her until the coroner came.

But my eyes weren't on her, her bare flesh, her outstretched hand.

They were on her drawings.

19 thoughts on “Pictures”

  1. What a sad end, alone with a bottle.There is something about good art that captures, the life and vitality of its subject, I suppose thats the contrast here, in the pictures there is remains life and vitality, but the person has become just a body (no matter how respectfully you treat it, its not what it once was.)

  2. I don't know why but somehow I don't find this too sad. Sure, she was alone when she died & that's always a shame but it sounds like it was quick, with no lingering illness or disability beforehand. She had her drawing to keep her occupied and a mind and hand steady enough to still be doing it. Not too bad really, when you think about it.

  3. A talented eccentric maybe? Perhaps a beautiful soul. Sad to think that the drawings will just be cleaned off the walls and forgotten, just as she will be forgotten except maybe by you,the police and us….

  4. True. The woman next door to a friend of mine died suddenly like that. She had no one. So the coucil came and emptied the entire contents of her house into a skip. My friend, being shamelessly bold, first “rescued” some items including some cheap jewelry and stuff. She gave me one of the necklaces she “rescued,” and since we never knew the woman's name, I have called it my “dead lady necklace” ever since. I don't mean that disrespectfully.

  5. When all said and done, I think a lot of people would be envious of the way she went. I know I am. I would dearly love to go like that.When you think of how most people live their last years, either medicated in a home or having nothing to do but watch the drivel that passes for daytime tv these days. Here she was, creating beauty purely because she enjoyed doing it and had a talent for it. A simple, pure kind of beauty, not for financial gain or because she felt she needed to impress someone – but purely because she wanted to.From your description it was peaceful and quick, and I really can't think of a better way to leave this world.

  6. Cardiac = heart, arrest= meaning to stopEveryone's heart stops beating when they die. Cardiac arrest is NOT a cause of death. Old age is, however, a legally admissable cause of death.

  7. Agreed. But of late there is often a difference between what is put on the death certificate and what was actually a cause of death.(My gran, who died of cancer still has 'cardiac arrest' on her death certificate.)

    This isn't a moan as it often spares relatives the trauma of a post mortem.

    Didn't know that 'old age' was legal though.

  8. You said “another one gone soon to be forgotten as we move on to our next job.” She won't be forgotten…because you wrote about her. She gets to spend Christmas with her beloved husband who had left earlier. What an awesome idea! Thanks for writing about her.

  9. I like this comment. Either way, she's not spending Christmas alone on a ward dazed and helpless, she got die without endless, pointless resus, or slow dementia, and all the other nasties I read about.Shame her piccies got lost, but since the net provides such a democratic forum for anyone who wants one, is it too Pollyanna to assume she maybe just didn't want to show them off?

    (Probably, but we each have to make life work for us, and that kind of thing is how I do mine right now….)

  10. But if their heart stops beating BEFORE they die, and is (for example) restarted (or taken out and a transplant put in) then cardiac arrest isn't always a cause of death.So to say that heart stops beating = death, and vice versa, is not a valid point, since either can come first without needing the other (I'm dead as a dodo if you crushed my head in a steam press, but my heart might conceivably still beat for a few seconds).

    Or to be more serious (and less, The Fly) hearts go on beating after people are “dead” enough to be organ harvested. Or in the US, dehydrated/starved to death (Terri Whatsername).

    So, cardiac arrest surely can be a discrete cause of death if it – erm, causes, death – and death can happen before cardiac arrest?

  11. It's such a waste that they don't let some charity like the Samaritans or something take any usable goods – if that was me dead, I'd love someone valuing my stuff as much as I did, and so I hope you enjoy the necklace, because you're honouring her each time you wear it.

  12. I am by nature a lurker,but i followed the link from B3TA and read this first.

    read a few of the archives.

    then got me a prezzie from amazon.

    keep writing dude, i will keep buying. deal?


  13. Though an ocean apart, your comments moved me, as have many of your posts.I work in a 'city' at a medical school, but I must live in the countryside. It keeps me sane.

  14. Smoochie:Cardiac arrest is a descriptive term, that simply means the heart has stopped. And yes, you are right in that people can have their heart stopped and they're not dead, and (very temporarily!) vice-versa. HOWEVER by the time they get to the legal position of being dead, and cause needs assigning via a death certificate (this does not happen at the point someone is declared 'brain dead' for the purposes of organ transplantation, a certificate can only be issued after the patient is in the mortuary) then cardiac arrest is not acceptable. It is, if you like, the final common pathway for all dead people but not the cause for many. The question is really WHY the heart stopped beating- myocardial infarction (heart attack) would be one common reason- it is NOT the same as a cardiac arrest. In the case of Terri Schiavo, her heart would eventually stop beating (=cardiac arrest) if not fed, but the CAUSE of that would probably been hypokalaemia (low potassium) secondary to starvation/malnutrition. Steve Irwin- stabbed throught the heart. He would have had a “cardiac arrest” but that wasn't the cause of his death- it was either hypovolaemia (low blood volume) secondary to penetrating trauma, or cardiac tamponade secondary to penetrating trauma. In essence, the term “cardiac arrest” is meaningless in assigning a cause of death because it doesn't tell anything of why the heart stoped beating. Hope that enlightens, but maybe it just confuses further!

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