Sometimes people aren’t ready to part ways with their family members, even if their physical state has succumbed to a lifeless body. Silence is better than absence and even if the person is dead, at least there is still a body to occupy a seat at family gatherings.
Vimlesh Sonkar, a 35-year-old income tax officer in Ahmedabad, India, died in April 2021. He was pronounced dead three days after becoming infected with COVID-19. His family refused to accept his death even when the death certificate was presented to them.
Denial is a natural part of grieving but living with a dead body is anything but natural. Instead of a traditional funeral service, they kept the dead body in their home for over a year believing that he would one day wake up from a coma. The family put an oximeter on one of his fingers and after it showed a pulse and the oxygen level in his blood, that was enough hope for them to preserve the body.
Caregiving isn’t only for living people. His wife, his parents, his brothers and their families, all of whom lived in the same house, took care of him, cleaning his body with Dettol disinfectant three times a day, changing his clothes daily and leaving the air conditioning on throughout the day. We don’t want the dead body to get too cold, would we?
Despite the care provided by members of his family, the body had deteriorated severely with one eye-witness describing it as a mummy with the flesh dried up on the bones. That didn’t seem to give off any warning bells to the family as they were content living with the decomposed body and foul smell seeping from his bones.
Sonkar clearly didn’t make it to his work shifts and concerned coworkers started questioning his whereabouts. Sonkar’s remains were found a few days ago by his coworkers when they went to his home to investigate his long-term absence.
After taking the dead body to the hospital for another evaluation, doctors confirmed that he was indeed dead. The family finally moved onto the acceptance stage of their grief and have now agreed to cremate the body.