I am pretty sure that there is not a single person that views this blog on purpose that does not already know that I am a Funeral Director for a living. It’s funny, but I really don’t ever, or have not yet, gotten tired of all the questions that people have. Most people feel like they are being a burden by drilling me to satisfy their morbid curiosity. The truth of the matter is that I really do love my job. I don’t get tired of the conversation because I know that I’m still just as curious as most people asking the questions. The only thing that will instantly drive me to absolute anger is when someone finds out what I do and their instant reaction is that of disgust followed by their drilling Q’s. I am not a lesser person because I do what I do. First, I provide for my family, and so far we are not eating from the dumpsters. Second, I see my job as a sort of sacred trust. If the body is a temple, and I thoroughly believe that it is, then I am providing the service of caring for someone’s most sacred possession when they are no longer able to. Third, anyone who has lost someone close to them knows that it can be one of the most difficult times in their life. It is my honor and privilege to do my best to help a family along their personal grieving process. I am not a counselor, but can certainly be a comfort to the family that has no idea what to do and how to do it. I am a director. Now to you, Mrs. Wife of the bishop’s councilor, how many “Thank You” cards have you received in your life for helping someone with one of the hardest things that they will, hopefully ever, have to go threw? And furthermore, I didn’t say “EW!” to YOUR face when I saw that you had apparently volunteered to store 1/4th of the worlds butter supply under your skin, and then ask you about what it is like being so fat! That would have been extremely rude. And FYI – I just got another thank you card in the mail today.
Now, no matter how much I do enjoy my chosen vocation, there are certainly days that I wish that I had stayed at home in bed. Lately it’s been pretty mild. But I do have some good stories to tell. Most of you have heard my best one, but as this is for Linda, the rest of you can get a repeat.
The following is not really for the faint of hart:
Working for a short time in San Francisco was so great for good/gross stories. For example… There was this one lady that I happened to get the short straw on. She was a heroine addict and had O.D.’d after sneaking into an empty room at one of the homeless hotels in the city. Now, just imagine the stench that a homeless hotel would have. Now, imagine how badly decomposed a body would be in order to overpower the rancor of hundreds of homeless packed into a single small building. The only reason that anyone found the body was because they started to smell her. They estimated the date of death to be about 14 days before they found her. Next, imagine this, heat will speed the rate of decomposition. Mid July in California. San Francisco can stay cool, but sometimes it does not. The latter was the case. Homeless hotels do not have air conditioning. Neither do they have fly traps. Now for some math. 14 days + dead body + flies = Fat Maggots!!! EVERYWHERE!!! But we’ll come back to that. Let’s talk briefly bout some science of a dead body. The vascular system of the average human body only holds enough blood to fill 1/3rd of its capacity. Since the heart keeps the blood moving it’s able to circulate and never settle. When the heart stops, the blood will settle to the lower third of the body due to gravity. When the blood settles it will seep all the way out to fill the capillaries in the skin to capacity. Then, because it’s not circulating, it will coagulate there and cause a permanent dark purple, black stain on the skin. The easiest way to understand this would be to think of a scab that forms under the skin on 1/3rd of the body. This is called a blood stain, or livor mortis. This is how they (cop shows) can tell if a body has been moved from the original scene.
So, if a lady were to O.D. and fall face forward on the floor. The blood would settle to her face (being on one of the lowest points) and stain it dark purple/black. Time makes the stain continually darker, unfixable and swollen beyond normal recognition. This was the case.
Now let’s get back to the maggots. Her arm looked like swiss cheese. There were so many holes in her from the maggots burrowing their way threw. It was one of the most disturbing and disgusting things that I have ever seen. Until 30 seconds later when we had to roll the body on its side so that we could put the water hose to her nostril and flush out her nose and mouth form the thousand and thousands of maggots that had taken up residence there. They were pouring out of her mouth and nose and every other orifice that you could imagine. And the stench was just enough to bring the strongest stomach inside out. As if matters were not bad enough….
This body was kept under near frozen conditions due to the advanced state of decomposition. We removed the body from the cooler and allowed the body to thaw so that we could embalm her.
As the body and maggots began to warm up, the maggots began to reanimate. They had not died in the freezer. They were just hibernating in the layers of their own lard that they formed from the consumption of rotting flesh. As they reanimated, they began to evacuate the deceased (we where pumping it full of Embalming chemicals) and wiggle onto the work table and then onto the floor. You could not step anywhere without a nasty crunching/popping noise. It took all that I had that day to not just walk away and never return. I do however feel fairly confident that the worst is behind me. So far so good. There was nothing about this poor lady that was not absolutely revolting. But that brings me back to the cool part of my job. I get to do my best to try and work some sort of incomprehensible magic and make a disaster into something that will be pleasing enough to let the family say goodbye. Sometimes that can be done and sometimes it can’t, but when I get hugs and thank yous and even tears of gratitude for the work that I do, suddenly it’s all not as bad as I thought it was. I really do love my job. And I think I’m darn good at it.
Now, Linda. Where is my invite?