'The Lonely Death' by Hayley Katzen

Find Me Before I Die a Lonely Death.com

– Title of an album by electronic band Minuit

A human body exposed to summer heat can be reduced to bones in nine days. First the flies and maggots feast on the body’s fluids. As the tissues decay, they feed on the whole body through orifices and wounds. Next the insects and predators gorge on the juicy maggots. Once the body has begun to decompose, in come the beetles that tuck in to the tougher flesh, skin, and ligaments. In Australia the intestines of herbivores are a delicacy for the dung beetle. Then moths and mites feed on fly eggs and hair. Meantime, the bacteria are busy, helping the body to decompose and recycling the nutrients. Is that, I wonder, what happened to our Brahman bull Angel?

He came to us in spring. It was the year my partner, Jen, extended the trellis to support the bumper broad-bean crop. The paddocks were rich in green pick and cows didn’t trundle after the truck bellowing, ‘Feed me, feed me’.

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Published in May 2013, no. 351
Hayley Katzen

Hayley Katzen

Hayley Katzen is an award-winning short story writer. Her short stories and essays have been published in Australian and American journals and anthologies. Her short story ‘The Lehman’s Armchair’ was produced and broadcast on ABC Radio after winning the 2007 ABC Short Story Award. She has worked as a legal academic and researcher, and now lives on a cattle farm in northern New South Wales. She is currently an MFA candidate at City University of Hong Kong. This essay was commended in the 2013 Calibre Prize.

Comments (3)

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    Just read Hayley Katzen's commentary "The Lonely Death" and was impressed with how she handled the subject matter. I was especially moved by the story of Angel and her family pets' deaths. It's also incredible that someone died alone but whose body wasn't discovered for up to 8 years. And I never realized that just because someone dies alone doesn't necessarily mean there were lonely, although they may have been. Solitary people and those who prefer to spend time alone in their own company may not feel the need to have an audience at their deathbed. Some people may want exhale than final breath when no one else is around them. This article made me think about death in a way I hadn't before...

    Saturday, 11 May 2013 12:00 posted by  Just Me
  • Leave a comment

    Exquisite writing and important complex ideas offered so gently. I hate to creatures - anyone - denied dignity in death. Wonderful and very moving.

    Tuesday, 07 May 2013 14:19 posted by  Kathryn Hegarty
  • Leave a comment

    I loved Hayley's essay and the thinking it provoked. Having recently sat with my father for 4 days as he died; stroking and holding him, including during his last minutes, I often asked myself "is he less 'alone' on this, his last earthly journey because his family is around him?" Hayley's essay captures much of my pondering on the matter of death and dying; and, as usual, is so very beautifully written.

    Saturday, 04 May 2013 18:03 posted by  Jenny Kerr

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