I recently had a young man, a fellow funeral director, reach out to me and inquire how I got into this death business. What was I supposed to tell him? I had a pretty normal childhood. I played with Barbies. I ate mac n’ cheese. Barney was a regularity on my television set. It’s not like my parents were secretly worshiping Satan behind closed doors. They didn’t take me to graveyards. (Well, my grandmother did, but only to put flowers on my grandfather’s grave.) I’m constantly pondering trying to figure out what the heck happened. Did I drink contaminated water that caused me to have an interest in…dead people?!
Whatever happened will forever be a mystery to me, and dare I say, to my mother as well. As I sit here and reflect on why I took that left turn instead of the right, five things keep flowing into my head. Five reasons why I think this career choice just seemed natural. Here, let me share them with you.
5. Catholic School.
Yes, yes, I must admit it. I have thirteen years of lovely Catholic School under my belt (if you count Kindergarten). For twelve out of those thirteen years, I woke early, went to my closet and put on my uniform. Plaid skirt, white blouse, knee socks and black shoes. Kids would complain about them, but if I’m being honest with you, and I am, I would have to admit that I loved them. I didn’t have to think. Wake up. Brush teeth. Put on uniform. Catch bus. Easy. I like easy. The uniform made the transition to funeral director suit seem natural. Now I wake up, brush teeth, put on suit, drive to work. Easy.
Black shirts, pants, shoes, purses. My favorite color to wear has always been black. I remember once back in grade school, I had some classmates that used to think I was *gasp* gothic. Listen, just because my black pants had hot pink zippers on them and I wore converse sneakers, well that didn’t make me gothic. I mean, sure maybe some of my outfits had a hint of the dark style, but that didn’t mean anything. Today, I’ve traded my black pants with the hot pink zipper for a more feminine LBD. You better believe I have a nice pair of black pumps to go with it, but believe me, they’re not CFM shoes by any means.
3. Close Driver.
I’m a pretty good driver. Most of the time. I have never been in an accident (knock on wood) and I mostly always abide by the speed limit. My one flaw, however, if you wish to call it a flaw, it that I drive pretty close to the person in front of me. I don’t know why, I’ve always done it. It does come in handy when driving in a funeral procession, though! After all, you have to stay close to the car in front of you so traffic doesn’t weave in and out and disturb the funeral.
2. Live Blood.
My grandmother used to work in a hospital. She used to ask me when I was younger if I wanted to become a nurse. I always said no. It’s not that I didn’t want to help people, because I did. It was just that if my friend got a paper cut I would have to run away before the sight of the blood would cause me to faint. Seriously. Oh, you want to tell me how you got that scar on your knee? Please don’t, because even talking about physical pain causes me to become drowsy and welcome the floor as my new best friend. I don’t get it. It has to be mental, I mean, why else would a bloody nose cause me to scream in fright yet an autopsied body have me intrigued to learn more? I came up with an equation of sorts. Live blood = bad. Dead blood = okay. Now make sure to memorize it, there is going to be a test tomorrow.
1. See It To Believe It.
I remember my first ever pet, a turtle named Barney. I was five years old. I would go into my back yard with my father and dig up worms and watch Barney eat them, it was awesome! Well, the same year I got Barney I also went on a family vacation to Disney World (every kid’s dream). My neighbor said she would take care of my beloved pet while I was gone for a week. After the vacation I couldn’t wait to go and see my little turtle and tell him all about my new princess hat and how I met Mickey Mouse. It turns out Barney missed me so much while I was gone that he died of a broken heart. My neighbor didn’t know what to do with him so she put him in a zip lock bag in my patio. I didn’t believe that Barney was dead, I couldn’t. So my dad took me into the patio so I could see his little lifeless shell with my own eyes. There he was. I believed he was gone alright. And you know, I want to be the person to help other people to see it to believe it. Just like my dad held my had and showed me Barney was gone. It was the first step.