I want to tell you about my job. I want to. But I can’t. Not in any meaningful way at least. I want to take pictures at my job. I want to. But I most definitely cannot. I think that in general people understand why. My friends-quite frankly-are thankful I don’t talk about my job as it always seems to give them the heebie jeebies. But sometimes-well lot’s of times really-I wish I could share more openly about what I do. And in a world that is increasingly dependent on ‘likes’ for validation and self identity. Well, how the hell am I supposed to feel good about myself if I can’t post anything?!
The ladies in my death group post frequently about really quite brilliant things. Sarah is doing multiple pieces on Women and Death, giving a voice to women that have long been forgotten and deserve to be heard and when she isn’t busy with that she also writes about the ritual of food and death. Caitlin has any multitude of amazing topics to pull from, creating quirky and smart videos on anything from the science of death, religious rituals in other cultures, or even politics. Then there is Megan (dual talented as well), she has Death Salon, an entire weekend of death talks. She also tests books to find out whether the covers have been made from human skin. Seriously, how cool is that?! And for all of these stories there is a safety that they are not really infringing on anyone’s privacy. But whose voice, other than my own, can I sing along to? My stories are not my own. They belong to people who are still grieving. And, while they are seen through my eyes, the characters are still fresh in the minds of those who lost them. And, who would trust a funeral home that was seen as selling their grief for 139 likes on Facebook? So what, in my incredible niche world, do I have left right now?
I guess the answer is. I don’t know. Usually I figure things out halfway through writing about it. But I am not sure there is one here. Not for some time at least. As time, like it does for all things, is the only solution. Maybe in a few years. Maybe with some name changes. With permission from families. I can start talking about what it is that I do in a way that is truly meaningful to me. I have, by the way, discussed a couple cases from my past work at an old mortuary. It was one that I felt particularly happy about it, and it is so long ago I can no longer remember the specific name or age of the decedent. My mind self edits and gives me the ability to tell truthfully that I do not know who she was. And maybe in time, it will happen with my families here too. Although it will be harder since I take care of them all from beginning to end.
So why does any of this matter? Why can’t I find validation within myself and let it be? I know that ‘likes’ don’t matter, nor do followers on Instagram. So why can’t I go about my business and be happy that I do actual good in the world? Well, because I can’t. And, I suppose it isn’t really about ‘likes’ or followers. It’s about leaving something behind that I care about. So let me, if I may, compare it to something more relatable. Almost everyone you know is busy breeding and popping out beautiful little babies right? And they post pictures of them alllll over the interweb. They talk about them alllll the time. Blah blah blah. My baby did this. My baby did that. My baby laughed. My baby pooped! Why? Certainly not to torture me. But rather, because they are proud. And they should be. Shit, you made a little human. And you poured all of your love-and sanity-into this little ‘you’ because why? Because whether you want to admit it or not. You wanted to leave a little bit of you behind. This part of you that you have a chance to shape and make beautiful. Well, that is how I feel about what I do. My mortuary is my baby. I feed it. I nurture it. I love it. I am there for my families when they fall down. I am there for them when they cry. I hold their hand during their first steps into death. And I create something new that they have probably never seen before. And I’m proud. I am proud because I am a woman, doing something that many women before me never got a chance to do. And there is just so little time. So so little time. Before I am gone. And these words and the people I helped, will be all that I can leave behind.
When Facebook becomes irrelevant. And Instagram is replaced with some other form of pictorial vanity madness. My words will still be here. Or at least I hope they will. My stories are all I have to keep, and to share with the world. And I believe they have the power to move, change, and permanently alter others and how they view their own life and death. And no one feels time quite the way that a mortician does. It’s just death constantly for me. And maybe I need to share because it gives meaning to my time here. The question is. While I sit on my stories for the next five or so years. What to do in the meantime?