We knew he would die soon and we asked him if he wanted us to contact anyone. He told us he would like his son to know, but he didn’t have his phone number. By this time he was too unwell and needed help with communication via social media. Our nurses helped him to send a message via his accounts. He died before he received any replies.
As per his wishes, we had arranged for a funeral director to uplift his body as he had wanted a simple cremation. He had limited savings and arrangements had been made with social welfare for a funeral grant to pay for his cremation. Our nurses again checked his social media accounts and found a reply from his son, including a phone number. A phone call was made overseas and was answered by the young man’s foster mother. She was told of our patient’s death, and said that his son wanted to come over to see him, and would arrive in town in three days’ time.
This meant a change of plans. One of our patient’s problems that led to his death was an overwhelming infection. Without refrigeration, his body would deteriorate quickly in the summer heat. The funeral director we had made arrangements with did not have refrigerated facilities. Our staff called local funeral directors to explain the situation. We found out there were few facilities available. Most bodies are embalmed and not placed into cold storage. I called a few companies myself and eventually, one of the bigger firms said they could look after our patient’s body with an appropriate temperature level.
The funeral directors went out of their way and waived fees for the refrigerated storage and also allowed the family to conduct a small funeral service free of charge. The son was able to see his father, and also meet a number of his family members for the first time. He had only known his father briefly having been estranged from him for most of his life apart from the last year. He had met him once about a year ago and had been in sporadic contact via social media since then.
After the funeral, his son came to the hospice to collect his father’s belongings. We shared with him stories about the man we had gotten to know over two admissions. We told him the thing he was proudest of was his son, that his son was doing well in school and was going to go to University was what had made him happiest. We talked about his father’s midnight snacking on instant noodles, and the son told us that he did the same thing. His feet were the same large size as his father’s. He left the hospice knowing his Dad better and knowing himself better too.