You know the feeling you get when something is first brought to your attention and then suddenly it’s EVERYWHERE? Yeah, that’s how death is for me. Don’t get me wrong–it isn’t a creepy kind of ghoulishness or an overwhelming sadness type of thing–it is just there.
I’m working at a small town funeral home and I’m going to funeral school, so my day-to-day activities are centered around embalming, cremation, funerals, burials, etc. I’m finding the work to be pretty much enthralling. I guess the subject just jumps out at me now. I have so many questions and I am in a state of just soaking in as much information as I can. Death, dying, grieving, history of funeral service, cultural and religious traditions–anything–I’m interested. If you have a story, I want to hear it. If you’ll sit still long enough, I’ll tell you one of mine. Don’t be surprised if this blog sort of morphs into a conglomeration of everything I’m learning. Also, don’t be surprised if I start to sound like a fly on a cupcake. There is just so much involved in death.
I was thinking yesterday about how I came to this point in my life. The only other career option I have ever been this excited about is that of an OB/GYN. I know, I’m crazy, right? Who wants to usher in life? No, I hear you, that’s not the first thing you thought of… let’s be honest, it’s a different kind of job… That’s why I kept the idea mostly to myself. I didn’t pursue that route because A. Med School. and B. it just seemed too bogged down in ultrasounds and pitocin and monotony to me. I much prefer the idea of a midwife.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that midwives, at least in America, were actually some of the first kinds of undertakers. These pioneering women, along with their traditional tasks of assisting in births, took on the role of washing preparing bodies for burial. Undoubtedly, this had something to do with the astronomical rate of stillbirths and infant deaths, but still, it’s kind of mind boggling. That juxtaposition of life and death–the one we all feel somewhere deep inside of us–the early midwives lived it. To wash and prepare a body is truly one of the most moving experiences this life has to offer. I can only imagine that ushering in life is along the same vein. In our modern era of technology and busyness and blah, blah, blah, I find it fascinating that to actually be entrusted with a body, to slow down and take care and ‘undertake’ the process is something that is unique to birth and death. I learned that the word ‘undertake’ means “to bind oneself to a task or to pledge to get it done.” What a concept!–one that has carried over into our modern idea of funeral directing.
Something to think about, right? I guess I qualify as a granola now, huh? More on that later…