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 an embalmer — which means I work more closely with the deceased than I do with the families.
I spend my days inside a lab preparing the deceased for their funerals. We complete their embalming, do their hair, dress them and then place them into the casket that was chosen by the family.
I'm comfortable being with the deceased on my own. I know they can't hurt me. I really do try to look at them not as a body, but as somebody's loved one.
I have a unique opportunity to give people a more peaceful final memory of their loved one. If you want to stay in this field for a long time, you have to focus on the good.
Sometimes, I get some information about who they were, but usually I don't know very much. But I do always wonder about what kind of life they lived, and what their family was like. It's always interesting when you get like a little old lady that has these tattoos you wouldn't expect — it kind of makes you wonder about the person.
Some days can be difficult because you get bodies of all ages, and in different conditions. But I just remind myself about how my job can help families.
Our intention is to really assist families who are navigating a very unfamiliar and often devastating time in their lives. I have a unique opportunity to give people a more peaceful final memory of their loved one. If you want to stay in this field for a long time, you have to focus on the good.
People aren't always pleased with the way that somebody looks, but I don't take it personally. The expectation that they will look the same after death isn't always realistic.
Other times, people are very pleased with how their loved one looks, and decide to leave the casket open. That's always a high point for me.
To be very honest, my career hasn't made me any more or less comfortable with death than I was before. Sometimes, the more you are surrounded by it, the less you think about it. I think it's important that you separate the rest of your life from your work. That's true for most jobs.
My work is important to me. I have always had a deep respect for the job and how it impacts the families I serve.