So, let me tell you a story about me that not many people know.
I’ve seen* 10 people die.
Yep, I’ve been in 10 wrong places at 10 wrong times.
So…I’ve decided to write about it.
Now you’ve got to decide if you want to read it. (Warning, it gets pretty f**ked up)
I mean, no one ever really talks about death.
So, I’m gonna…
*In some of these stories, I guess I didn’t actually ‘see’ the person die, but witnessed the immediate aftermath.
#1 The Beach
Let me take you back to where it all began.
It’s 20 years ago.
I’m 8 years old.
Our family used to have a caravan on the North Coast of Cornwall.
And it was here where my first encounter with death happened.
So, I’m digging a moat for my sandcastle… when my attention is drawn to the shore line.
A man was being dragged out of the water.
He’d got caught in a rip current and drowned.
Everything that happened next is just one big blur, but the image of the body bag being loaded into the air ambulance is something that I’ll never forget.
Yeah pretty intense for an 8-year-old, right?
#2 The Cliff
Now, my second experience of death was actually in the same place a year or two later.
(Yeah, we still had more holidays there.)
It was the middle of the night, and a young man had fallen off the edge of the cliff on his way home from the pub.
Our caravan was the closest to the cliff path, so it had happened literally outside our door.
Okay, so I didn’t see him fall (So maybe this doesn’t count)
But it began to feel like death was following me.
#3 The Café
A few years passed with no sign of death. Yay.
Maybe I wasn’t the angel of death after all.
I’m now 14, and working for £3 an hour in a sea-side café.
I worked for a husband and wife. Let’s call them Anna and John.
He was the chef, she was front of house.
They argued like cat and dog, but they made it work.
It was a Saturday morning.
I walked in the door, it was dark… Anna was sat in the middle of the room smoking a cigarette.
“He’s just had a heart attack in the kitchen, we’re not opening today”.
And there it was, strike number three.
And my last day at the Mermaid café.
#4 The Hockey Tournament
Let’s fast forward 2 years.
I’m now 16 and in year 11.
I played for my school hockey team.
We were on the way back from a tournament in Truro, Cornwall.
I’d like to say we won, but I can’t remember. So, we probably didn’t.
Now, it was pretty mandatory that win or lose on the way home the mini bus would go via some sort of fast food, roadside eatery.
And on this day McDonald’s was the dinner of choice.
So, there’s about 10 of us (and our coach), all in our hockey kits piling into the Maccy D’s on the A30.
Everyone orders. Everyone sits down.
Moments later our attention is drawn to an elderly couple sitting directly opposite us.
Now brace yourself for this one…
...The gentleman, who must have been in his 80s is stood up screaming for help.
His wife (also in her 80s) is chocking on a double cheese burger - it’s happening again.
Everyone’s panicking, the staff are on the phone to the ambulance.
Our coach rushes to aid the woman, attempting to give her the Heimlich manoeuvre.
It doesn’t work.
She died on the floor of a McDonald’s with her head resting on pillow made up of our school jumpers.
I don’t think I wore mine again.
#5 – The Junction
I can’t remember the date of this next one… but I was of a similar age.
I’m in the backseat of my parent’s car.
I think they were driving me to a Netball match. I played goal attack.
We’re approaching a junction which was notorious for crashes.
A motorbike is laying in the middle of the road.
A car, just metres away looking pretty worse for wear.
Then up ahead we see a man, well part of him at least.
Yeah, I know that one was pretty horrific.
#6 The Restaurant
It’s now 2008 and the year before I start university.
I’m working in a popular restaurant chain.
It’s a Saturday afternoon, it’s rammed and we’re understaffed.
I was clearing a table when my attention was drawn to a commotion happening outside.
Now, some 20 minutes prior to this a gentleman had walked into the restaurant…he didn’t want a table, just a drink at the bar.
He ordered a Guinness and rolled a fag.
Now back to the commotion.
So, myself and a few colleagues are now outside when we see the man from the bar. He’s sat on a bench, and there is blood EVERYWHERE.
And when I say everywhere, it’s like a movie.
Whatever you’re imagining. It was worse.
We have absolutely no idea what’s happened.
Was he stabbed? Did he fall?
All the blood seems to be coming from his thigh.
A colleague is holding towels against him trying to stop it.
The man is unconscious. His eyes are rolled back. It’s the most surreal thing ever.
People in the restaurant are starring. Children are crying.
As you can imagine it’s an absolute sh*t show.
An ambulance turns up, and they do what they can but the man has lost so much blood.
He died in the back of the ambulance.
Meanwhile a man complains his car is blocked in.
Oh, so how did he actually die?
Well, we later found out the man had recently discharged himself from hospital after having an operation to re-build his main artery (which had been damaged due to many years of alcohol abuse.) His stiches had burst and his artery ruptured, hence all the blood.
Yeah this one was probably the most traumatic.
And a pretty harrowing reminder of the effects of drinking can have on our bodies.
Here’s to #DryJanuary.
#7 The Restaurant pt 2
But death stuck around that week.
It was just 7 days later when the restaurant was open again that I arrived to find the lights off, and an air of silence.
This felt all too familiar as you can imagine.
“Have you heard the news?”
“Dave is dead”
It had been just moments before, that one of our chefs had had an aneurysm, falling and hitting his head against the bar, losing his life.
This was the first incident which left me feeling a weird responsibility.
Why was death following me?!
Now number 8 happened during my time at university.
It was fresher’s week and our class was taken to Barcelona to ‘bond’ - Neat huh?
Well It was all fun and games, until one afternoon whilst walking down Las Ramblas.
What looked like a homeless man was being given CPR on the street.
We walked by, naturally curious as to what was happening.
And yep, just as I thought…when we walked back some 20 minutes later he was being zipped into a body bag.
The angel of death strikes again.
#9 The Albion
It was now my second year and I was doing the odd shift in a pub to earn some cash.
Yeah, I know, a lot of these stories happen at work. But this is the last one I promise/I hope.
It was a Friday, or Saturday night (I can’t remember).
There was a group of ‘lads’ in, a rowdy bunch. Y’kno the sort.
They’d come over from the neighbouring town for a pub crawl. We were the half way point.
They’d upset a few people, knocked over a few drinks, exchanged a few choice words with the locals.
The bouncer had already warned them to calm down a number of times, but eventually they were thrown out.
But they didn’t go far. Just out onto the road, play fighting with one another.
Moments later one of them rushes in asking us to call an ambulance.
Things really had escalated quickly.
Outside one of the young men was laying on the curb. Blood coming from his ears.
It appeared he had a severe head injury.
The groups play fighting had got out of hand, as one of them hit the other in the back of the head. He’d fallen, hitting his head on the curb on the way down.
Yeah, his FRIEND had done this to him – what the F**K.
The emergency services arrived. We were locked in the pub. Where we were told that he was dead.
It was now a murder enquiry and I was a key witness.
Some days later it was announced that he actually wasn’t dead.
But in fact, he’d been permanently brain damaged.
(Yeah, I know this one technically doesn’t count either really… sorry?)
#10 The Zoo
Now number 10 is what prompted me to share these stories.
Because it happened last week.
BUT in this story, I don’t actually know if the man died.
Let’s hope not.
So, I’m at London Zoo.
It’s two weeks since they’ve lost their beloved meerkats and the nation’s favourite aardvark.
We’re having lunch in the terrace café.
I’ve got a pizza.
There’s a family next to us. They’re American.
Mum dad, and three teenage children. All girls.
Suddenly I hear one of the daughters screaming “DAD!”
Instantly I feel sick. I knew what was coming.
I turned to the right of me where I see the father slumped in his chair, unconscious.
Here we go again.
Immediately people rush to his aid.
Luckily in a place like that there’s always a first aider or a Dr around to help.
I go to call an ambulance, but someone’s beaten me to it.
We move out of the way and let them do their thing.
I have absolutely no idea what happened next. But I can only hope the man survived.
And that’s that.
Thank you if you got this far.
So, why did I write this?
If I’m completely honest… I thought it would help me to understand how I feel about it all. I’ve only recently started sharing these stories with people, and so often they’re shocked at how ‘okay’ I am, it’s made me question. Am I really okay?
And you know what, I really am.
As we all know, death is a given. We’re all going to die.
Whether it’s peacefully in our sleep, or bleeding to death on the patio. (Sorry)
But for something that’s one of the only certain things in life. It’s so weird we don’t talk about it more.
Maybe if we opened up about how we feel about it, we’d be less afraid of it.
Now I hope those of you who know me will still be my friend.
And I hope I still have a job once my boss reads this.
But also remember it was (mostly) strangers who died. So as long as you’re my friend/colleague/follow me on Twitter. You’re (pretty) safe.
Let's talk about death whilst we're still alive.