Thoughts of a mortician

I was on Facebook this morning and saw an image from a page I follow called Humans of New York. The photo depicted a young black boy playing basketball in a playground. He was interviewed to say something along the lines of, “When I grow up, I want to be a mortician. I went to my uncle’s funeral, and they dressed and made him up well. I want to be able to do that, too!”
I’d never, ever heard of any little kid saying he wanted to be a funeral anything or mortician. In our society, most families shield their children from anything death or funeral related, which I highly disagree with. While I have always been uncomfortable about the idea of death, I think children should be exposed to whatever is in front of them. If someone close to them dies, they should not only know about it, but also be given the ability to say one last goodbye to them. Death is just a part of life as much as any of us want to deny it.
This led me to doing a Google search on “mortician,” and I found this article called “Confessions of a Mortician,” in which a 5th-6th generation mortician candidly discusses his profession, what he does, and why he continues doing this. He also had a very well written and at times humorous mortician blog that discusses his experiences and thoughts. On his site, he has a list of reasons, briefly and thoughtfully written, that discuss why he enjoys what he does.
One reason he continues this work is what he calls “the lack of the superficial.” What he says about the lack of the superficial is very compelling, as in we live in world where people are always trying to earn more money, one up other people, get fancier cars, etc., but when death comes upon us, all that goes away and people reveal their authentic selves. Their authentic selves may be cowardly or even more selfish, but many times, they are deeper, more loving, more emotional, and more raw.


The ‘safe death confrontation’ is also very true, even if I don’t want to admit it. I think because for the longest time, I had been to more funerals than weddings that I developed a deep fear about death, not so much my own, but of those around me (that story may change if I end up getting diagnosed with a life-threatening disease). Because I went to so many funerals at a very young age, I just thought that people around me could drop dead at any time, and that frightened me. But I think we’d all live happier, healthier lives if we were more comfortable with the fact that death is an inevitable part of life, and that like he said, it is sadly one of the things that unites us all in terms of experience. It would also force us to do and pursue the things we want because we know our time here is not infinite. We’d be less fearful and more willing to take chances.

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