In this series, we introduce you to some of the Ottawans whose job it is to prepare the dead for what comes next.
Each has worked in their respective field for decades, and each draws on that experience to share their insights on loss, grief and the final rest.
I'm a gravestone designer from Montreal, Que., but I will be buried at Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa. It's home to my most favourite pieces of work, and I would like to rest next to them. It's a little far from my family and I probably won't have as many visits, but this place means a lot to me.
I come down to Ottawa weekly and drive around the cemetery to look at all the stones I've designed. I remember the people and families that they belong to. It's mostly good memories.
My wife and I already have a mount set up for ourselves, and it already has our names on it. It was a bit of a blow to first see it because it made death seem so real and close, but that's OK, death is a part of life. We all have to go some day.
I'm not doing this for money anymore, it's more about love now. I like to know that I make the mourning process easier.
I drive by my grave and I say hello to myself to make up for all the days when no one will come to say hello. I always tell people to prepare their monument beforehand. You want to save your family the grief.
I started designing on Sept. 11, 1972. I'm 76 years old now. I haven't counted them all, but I've definitely designed over 40,000 tombstones. I love doing this work. I feel like I'm achieving something for people that are grieving.
I meet all sorts of people. I'll never forget this one young woman I met 25 years ago. She lost her husband very young. She walked into my shop in Montreal and told me she needed a stone for her husband. She had came up with a poem and wanted it engraved on the back of the stone.
When she came to approve the stone, she made me read the first letter of each line. It spelled out "f--k you." I thought she must have really disliked him. I felt sorry for him. But almost 20 years later, I went back to find the stone, and saw that flowers were still being planted there by the woman.
I meet young people with cancer preparing their own stone. I meet the spouses of people who passed away. Even when they're older, they're usually still very much in love. I meet people in a lot of pain, and I kind of live that pain with them. Some people deal with death very easily, others take it very badly. They tell me that I'm making things easier for them, but it's still very tough.
I'm not doing this for money anymore, it's more about love now. I like to know that I make the mourning process easier. I like to look at all the resting places I helped make for all these people. I'm proud of what I've done.
I'm semi-retired. My children have taken over my 45-year-old company, but I still design stones. I think I'll retire when I am in the ground. As long as I can help, I'll be doing this job.