It’s a strange place, where I sit - looking in from the outside, afforded the privilege of exposure to this industry in increments - through chats over coffee from the mortician herself, or in person, during the course of our planning and filming for the channel. Snippets of information filter through to me, without the burden of full-blown exposure.
And while there is always the barrier of professionalism between myself and the deceased, with no one on show or made a spectacle, I do have a kind of back stage pass when it comes to the procedures, equipment and stories of what goes on behind the mortuary doors and surprisingly, to date I have been surprised but not really ever shocked.
Asked often if I am keen to join Tracy in her choice of career, the answer is always, and will remain a definite no thank you. I am constantly in awe of Tracy and her colleagues with their empathetic, caring nature, eye for detail and at times, creativity, I am also more aware than most of the reality of the job - it’s heavy, hard work; time specific - it can be stressful, so very sad, and can be at times fairly challenging from a blood and gore perspective. It’s not something I’m at all keen to get my hands into.
But I am fortunate to be looking at the mortician world from the perspective of my own career which is also focussed on caring, but for the living.
As a therapist, I enjoy the banter with clients, relish in the ability to super sleuth my way to a solution for their aches and pains and generally get enough ‘helping people’ job satisfaction in a dimly lit, sweet smelling clinic as the calming relaxation music plays in the background.
No saws or body lifters for me.
No drains or sutures or PPE - I prefer the personal, living, breathing, human touch laced with enough medical and anatomical know how to keep me on my toes. I enjoy the feedback from my clients - their responses, improvements and setbacks informing my next treatment. That’s something you don’t get in the mortuary, but for comments from the family.
The caring is the same, but that’s about where the similarities end. For me, it’s caring for the person on the table, creating a haven for them away from the world and sheltering them emotionally and physically from the stresses they feel.
For the mortician, it’s care for the person on the table, but there’s also a recognition that while they are gone from this world, and only their body remains, it’s the family and close friends who will pay the emotional toll and it’s for them the the mortician does their work.
It’s testament to the nature of the folk that do this job that overriding all the unpleasantries they see and touch and smell and have to deal with, is a desire to make everything as easy as possible for the family. It takes a very particular personality, with a kind soul and a unbridled patience to excel in the job - patience when a grieving family changes tact in the middle of preparations; when the conditions are particularly confronting, when there are six bodies in the coolroom all needing attention before tomorrow.
That’s when the mortician kicks into super care mode. Putting all selfish persuasions aside, they do it for the families, who, if the mortician does their job well, probably won't even realise there has been any work done behind the scenes at all.
Learn more about what goes on behind the mortuary doors at Are You Dying To Know? on YouTube and don't forget to come find us on instagram @ are_you_dying_to_know