My Grandmother’s Viewing

February 10th, 2007 by Potato

Today was the visitation for my grandmother. It was very, very long: first an afternoon session, then a dinner break (where more people showed up to the house) then another two hours in the evening. PEI has a strange tradition for the visitation: the family lines up beside the coffin (a big receiving line with nametags, no less) and visitors file through, chatting briefly, shaking hands, and offering condolences. It was exhausting, especially since of the hundreds of people who came through (my grandmother made a lot of friends!) I only knew about a half dozen. So there were a lot of people who came through and were in tears after talking with my grandfather, then got to us grandkids and would say “oh, who’s are you?” or “I think I last saw you when you were just this tall”, etc. It wasn’t a very comforting ritual — half the time just talking to someone who was already crying would set one of us off even if we didn’t know them, plus I find it quite stressful to constantly interact with strangers that way. My aunt says that it’s not usually done that way in the few funerals she’s been to in New Brunswick, and I don’t think they work like that in Ontario, either. There, she says, people tend to mingle a bit and chat up the survivors they actually know, and get some time to say goodbye to the deceased without the next people in line shaking hands and chatting at either end of it. The line got so long at one point that they were bringing people in out of the cold and seating them in the chapel to queue up again after the line thinned a bit.

One odd thing I noticed is that a lot of men on PEI have huge hands. I think that I have fairly average-sized hands; I fit into medium or large sized gloves for the most part, and they’re a good deal bigger than Wayfare’s, etc. But whether it’s use on the farms or just genetics, a lot of the men who came through had hands that just completely dwarfed mine. There were also a lot of people who tried to express their condolences with a nearly comical handshake that tried to crawl right up my arm. First, a regular handshake that went on too long for comfort, then just as you think they’re about to let go they would take their other hand and grab your elbow…

The funeral will be tomorrow, on the far side of the island where my grandmother was born. She’s going to be buried on a hill known as the coldest part of the Island. She said “oh, I know it’s cold, but I won’t really mind when the time comes.” After about 5 hours of visiting today, I’m not sure if I’ll have the energy to get out there (it’s about an hour-long drive away).

One of my aunts is a nurse, my mom was a nurse (she went to nursing school out here), and my grandmother had a lot of nurses out to visit her at home to help take care of her after her last stroke, so at one point there was a big discussion about health care in PEI. It turns out there are 7 hospitals on PEI (for a population of about 150k, half that of London which has 4(?), only two of which have emergency departments), though I only know of two myself. They were talking about how ridiculous it is to have that many small hospitals and how in some other provinces a city with 150k people would be lucky to have one, so they were talking about ways to try to improve the ambulance system here so that they could then start closing and consolidating. A good suggestion was to add a few helicopters to permanenly serve PEI (rather than having to borrow Nova Scotian helicopters in times of need), and then set up one good centralized hospital with lots of modern equipment and stuff. It turns out that a lot of diseases here get missed or mis-diagnosed because no one hospital is large enough to support many specialists, instead the hospitals are more like clinics with surgical facilities, and anything much beyond setting a break requires a patient transfer to Halifax or another large hospital. In fact in my grandmother’s case, she was admitted to the hospital with a stroke, and a common treatment for that is to administer a thrombolytic (“clot buster”) to try to save the brain tissue. She was lucky and managed to get a CT to rule out bleeding in the brain (clot busters make that worse, as you can imagine). However, there are only a few doctors licensed to perscribe a thrombolytic in PEI, and none of them was available at that hospital at the time, so she never received treatment.

One Response to “My Grandmother’s Viewing”

  1. Ben Says:

    Hey Potato, I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother.