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 have been preparing the dead for burial as a volunteer for over 20 years. Muslims are very careful about the way the dead are treated. In our faith, we believe that even the deceased are aware of what is happening to their body.
We use lukewarm water to wash the body so that it is not too hot or cold. To respect their privacy, we place a cloth over them and only wash one part at a time. We use shampoo on their hair and wash every part of their body very gently.
Caring for them gives you comfort that someday someone else will care for me with the same sincerity.
We perform the Islamic ablution, then tie the body in white, simple kaftan. Anyone doing the washing cannot say anything disagreeable about the body.
The person is placed into a very simple wooden box. The whole process needs to be done as quickly as possible. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, asked us to not keep the deceased away from their grave.
The community and family perform a special funeral prayer, and finally the person is buried into the earth.
It's simple, but not an easy task. It takes many hours and you get all sorts of bodies, of all ages and in all types of conditions. Volunteers do it all at no cost.
Anyone who knows the blessing and reward in this work is happy to do it at no material cost. In Islam, there are great rewards for those who wash the dead. It helps us build our relationship with God.
It's heartbreaking to see the families. Sometimes I do cry at the fragility of life, but it makes you stronger. We console those who grieve and ask them to make supplication and read our holy book. Caring for them gives you comfort that someday someone else will care for me with the same sincerity.
I always remember that one day we will all be in the hands and mercy of others.