re: "Death and Dying in Chile" & "The Days before Christmas Eve "
"I'm wearing the dual hats of back-up American Citizen Services officer during the holidays and also the Embassy duty officer this week. So when the marines called around 11:30 p.m on Friday night, the ringing phone on my bed-side table wasn't a surprise. However, the caller was a stressed American woman who had returned to her apartment and found her roommate dead in the bathroom of carbon monoxide asphyxiation from the water heater."
Those are the calls that you hate to get. No matter how much you are able to do on behalf of the survivors, no matter how "well" you are able to handle arrangements for them, a fellow countryman (or countrywoman) is dead and it's not going to get any better.
The very best you are going to be able to do, is not make things any worse.
"It hasn't been easy, but hopefully I am able to provide some comfort and semblance of assistance to the family. This afternoon I'll probably go with the roommate and a friend to the mortuary to identify the woman and help coordinate arrangements with the funeral service here to return her home to the U.S. soon."
When the very worst happens to a loved one abroad, you want someone like this FSO working for you in that consular district. Reading between the lines, and having handled a number of "death cases," FSO Globetrotter isn't just going through all the steps and running down a checklist from some manual. Actually, he's probably doing those things too, but he's emotionally engaged as well. Good consular officers generally are, but there's a cost.
"My wife has been a tremendous support to me."
As has Madam-at-Arms to me, whenever I work on a case like this. FSOs are no longer (and rightly so) evaluated on their spouses' (in olden days, that meant wives') performance. But a lot of them rate gold stars nonetheless. If I could promote the lot of them, I would.
Later he wrote:
"It has been a hectic 4 1/2 days since the American citizen passed away, and helping their family back home make arrangements."
"On Christmas Eve day I went early to the funeral parlor to meet the friends and help take the deceased American to the airport for her flight home to the U.S. last night."
"Later we drove to the airport and I signed some more papers and paid the air cargo company for their services. The friends said their final goodbyes to the deceased, and then we left."