To help with closure I have often witnessed the coroner allowing people to view the loved one when possible. This is also done at hospitals. This definitely hinges on the condition of the remains...
There is a sprawling shopping district in downtown Los Angeles. Towards it's Eastern fringe a man went to his car and collapsed. Security called 911. The fire rescue had to, as I did, drive up five levels of what had to be the smallest vs tallest parking structure I have ever seen. I finally made it, two officers were between the man on the ground and about five people. I surmised the white sheet near the car had the man in question under it. This was a death investigation call, no foul play was suspected. The sun was only two hours from setting.
The group was distinguished in their looks, attractive overall. They were tall, at least six feet, even the young teen that was there. They had a very dark chocolate look. Their faces had a family similarity to them except one woman who stood with an elderly woman. A young teen boy looked like the elderly woman as did most of the rest. They had broad, flat foreheads with noses that flared at the end and high cheek bones. I can't help notice that type of face, it has an automatic smile built in. No smiles now, I felt the gravity of their pain and the tight bond everyone had to the elder woman.
It was a quick series of photo's. Car identification, body placement and two over-alls. I would get the street signs and outside the building later. No detective was on scene and I was required to wait for the Coroner. I started talking with one of the officers who was pleasant but wanted to go back to his partner and finish discussing the game. He had explained that the group was some of the immediate family, that they were immigrants from one of the Caribbean islands and had businesses in the shopping mall below. I re-parked my truck to help shield the draped over body from being seen. Some of the family seemed very apprehensive about my photography. I talked to the teenage boy and explained that my photography was strictly for the investigation and never for publication. He went into the group, and explained what I said to the elderly woman who was standing with the younger woman. He was broadcasting a little bit, that helped to make everyone less anxious about my presence. It was a beautiful place to look at downtown LA, the sun was setting under a mix of high horse tail clouds and streaks of cloud that jets leave behind all backed up by a sky that was very blue to the East and about to start turning orange in the west.
When the coroner arrived more than an hour later the family gathering was well past thirty. She was sincerely nervous about the group. I told her that they understood what we were required to do.
I went back to talk to the young boy. He explained to me that they would like to give him some things so he would not be alone. Someone else said they needed to do something for him before the sun went down. I told the coroner about this. She understood and told me it would be OK. She would also allow them to be with him before he was removed and that anything dropped off would be kept with him the whole time. The boy and then the group was quite relieved to hear this. I felt very special, and giving for once to have made some effort to help. It felt great that everyone cooperated and that the coroner was very understanding and experienced in such matters.
I finished my final required pictures. As I drove off the van that would remove the body passed me and I saw the coroner directing the family to and around the man.
It does not always go so smoothly. For now I choose to just remember this one as best I can and blot out the rest. The mans family were great examples. They taught me a lot.