It is clear at a glance that she is dead.

The reception committee is presided over by her son. He is wearing a furry jumper and has the same blue eyes as his mother, except that his are trembling, tearful, bright, alive. Condolences go out to those present in the living room, around seven of them. A hum of voices can be heard in a back room. On the coffee table are mugs of coffee with slices of cake and apple pie, and cans of whipped cream. The atmosphere is relaxed yet subdued, due to everyone’s mindful, conscious movements and the muted tone of their murmuring.

With the forensic physician, I enter this sanctum of close friends who have just witnessed the dead woman’s final moments. Never before have I seen a deceased person, and certainly not a euthanised one. Yet I am not startled by the corpse. Rather, my emotions hover somewhere between moved and amazed and puzzled and amazed and disarmed at the number of people who have gathered around this woman, who just an hour ago felt the blood pumping in her body, was breathing, had ideas, this woman who has stepped into the portal of death; at how those people are discussing the event afterwards, reminiscing, marvelling at life and death, laying a hand on each other’s shoulder, in the presence of her body, reconciled, sad or resigned.

We excuse ourselves to a separate dining room, where we take a seat at a round, wooden dining table to sign the death certificate. An off-white cotton cloth with a floral pattern covers the table, soberly blending in with the soft beige of the walls. There is an old wooden step in one of the corners and hanging on the wall in front of me is a large mirror. I imagine I am in a still life by Vermeer: everything feels static and old, captured in the moment, yet alive, moving. Looking at myself in the mirror, I am aware of my fingers tightening, my chest gently rising and falling, my red cheeks. I move very precisely and slowly. I consciously smell the wood, listen to the sound of the pen, the murmuring in the background.

Then the doctor brings me out of my thoughts. The papers have been checked and signed, we leave.

Back in the living room, I cast another glance at the woman. For a moment, her white towel resembles an impressive halo, and her sheet a large robe. I even expect her to take another breath.

When she doesn’t, I see the cloth as a cloth again, the sheet as a sheet, her lifeless body, and I feel relaxed, subdued and resigned. Time is flowing again.

We offer our sympathies to everyone. I just hear someone saying that she had rock-solid faith before I close the front door behind me.

Read more

Sense of release

Being a GP isn’t so bad after all, thinks Dino Gačević to himself while cycling home…