Yesterday I Came Across a Decomposed Body on the Beach

While I was out for my work on Mae Ramphung Beach yesterday, I came across a decomposed human body. There are always plenty of dead things to see when the tide goes out here in Rayong (last week I saw a huge dead turtle), and at first I thought it might be a dead shark. I was walking barefoot in the sea as usual, and I was right on top of it before realizing that it was human. It came as such an unexpected shock that I just kept on walking. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t really human, and that my eyes had been playing tricks on me. I walked for about another kilometer before finally turning around to check.

When I got back to the same spot, I had a closer look, and there was no denying that it was human remains. The body was a white color, and it was only really identifiable by the legs and feet – a large amount of the flesh had been eaten away. I’m no expert, but it looked as if it had been in the water for a long time. It was an incredibly sad thing to see, and it just felt so wrong to see a body in that state of deterioration. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, or even if it was an adult or a teenager.

There were another couple of westerners on the beach, and they had also come across the body. One of them had already told a Thai beach vendor, so there didn’t seem to be much more for us to do. I think it is always best to leave it to the locals to contact the police in this sort of situation – I didn’t have my mobile phone with me anyway. It really felt like I should do something, but I didn’t know what I could do – it wasn’t like my nursing skills were going to be of much value. I left the beach feeling guilty.

Upset at the Sight of Death

I’m a bit surprised at how much seeing that dead body has upset me. I felt fine talking to people on the beach, and it didn’t really hit me until I got home. I saw lots of people die while working as a nurse. I’ve even prepared corpses for the mortuary by myself during the middle of the night-shift. I should be used to this type of stuff. I feel fine now, but last night I couldn’t stop thinking about it – I didn’t sleep very well at all. Maybe it was just the idea of a body being washed up like junk onto the shore like that. I know on an intellectual level that once we die our body is just decaying meat, but it is hard to be intellectual when faced with this reality.

I wasn’t sure about writing this blog post. It might be considered in bad taste. When I got home from the beach yesterday, I thought about mentioning my encounter on Facebook, but it seemed like a disrespectful thing to do. I don’t want to trivialize a human’s death so that I can have something interesting to say. The purpose of this blog though, has always been to honestly share my thoughts and feelings, and this is what I’m thinking about today. I always feel better for getting this type of stuff off my chest.

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10 thoughts on “Yesterday I Came Across a Decomposed Body on the Beach

  1. Paul – You’d had one harrowing experience but I wouldn’t say writing about it is in bad taste. However, I’m surprised with your previous experience in nursing it shook you up so bad. Life keeps surprising us all.

    1. I suppose it affected me more because I just wasn’t expecting it. I saw plenty of harrowing things in hospital, but I had a job to do and you expect to see upsetting things. It was also the lack of dignity about the whole thing that affected me most.

  2. I completely agree that writing about your gruesome find is not at all in bad taste.

    I’m sure most people would be very shaken by the discovery of a corpse. Strangely the same thing happened to another blogger I follow a few days ago and it affected him in much the same way:

  3. Jeez, that sounds awful. I’d be curious to know if the authorities ever determine who the person is and what the cause of their (I assume) untimely death was. I can imagine an experience like that can really stay with you for a few days at least…

  4. I should think any time something turns up where we don’t expect it, it needs a bit of processing. I imagine the brain is steeped in “shoulds” because daily life is all about predictability. Yours got shaken up a bit.

    Did anything else come of the experience? Shake up some new ideas?

  5. Paul, I read your article when first posted, apologies for the late revisit. I don’t know how I would react at the time, or after the experience…I’ve never seen a dead body, not even at a funeral. What a horrible thing for you to happen upon. I remember finding one of my dogs, dead, but I think my eyes were pulsating so much I kept thinking I could see him breathing and his heart beating. Denial I guess. Nowhere near the same thing, but I think, like you, I’d feel the urge to write or talk about it.

    1. Hi Snap, I actually think it is quite normal to look at dead people or dead animals and think they are still alive. It used to happen all the time when I was a nurse and we are had prepare a body. Apparently it is because we are just not used to seeing a person (or a dog) lying completely still like that so the mind plays a trick on us by making it look as if the body is alive. The mind is filling in the gaps but at the same time misleading us.

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