By Tracy Lee
Special to the Sun
Currently, I am under the care of a physical therapist. As she teaches me the error of my physical movements and improves upon my daily mechanical functions, we chat about all sorts of things. Last week, our conversation turned to our applied fields of labor. She is, as she calls it, a “traveler.” In layman’s terms, she is a traveling therapist, substituting, or filling-in, for therapists who are currently on vacation or switching jobs. She is presently working at my area hospital due to understaffing issues.
In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that before she became a physical therapist, she had wanted to become a mortician. People expressing regret for not following their dreams of laboring in the death services field is quite common in my line of work. They often express their fascination with death, and in particular, a curiosity with dead human bodies.
In my observations, healers have a concern and respect for the ill and infirmed. In their field of labor, their focus is preserving life. Death results in a dead human body. Upon death, unless you become a cadaver, their concern, care, and time with you are over, and they must, at that point, dispose of you.
On the other hand, morticians have concern and respect for loved ones who have died. They also must be aware of and assist surviving families through the trials of loss. In my field of labor, I must create the necessary services for survivor recovery through lawful, dignified, and sanitary interment ceremonies. My goals are to keep survivors safe and alive while ushering in and assisting them with recovery by efficaciously achieving a purposeful, dignified, and productive farewell experience.
In my opinion, morticians must practice great reverence, as well as hold immense respect for deceased human beings. I believe that curiosity aimed at dissecting a dead human body is reserved for research in the healing arts: the embalming room and practice of funeral directing hold no place for these curiosities. The pursuit of improving the health of the living should only occur by those having the ability to effectuate better healing scenarios.
The mission of a healer and the mission of a mortician concern different needs in the life cycles of human beings. In consideration of such, our motivations, cares, and curiosities should focus on our chosen fields of service.
My therapist articulated that she believes that once a person takes their last breath, all living concern has dissipated. The body is the residual product of a once productive and breathing person. In her opinion, the value retained by the decedent is their possible contributions to medical science.
As a mortician, I see the body as a sacred temple that once housed a living soul. Its value is the love he/she shared with others, the impact of benevolence he/she distilled upon his/her loved ones, as well as to the poor and undeserved, and his/her contributions to science and society. Upon death, a loved one’s value is not diminished in my eyes down to scientific material. I believe the soul understands and holds dear the mission of the body through enlightenment and carries their love, personality, intelligence, and appreciations with them, continuing to serve those who remain behind to reach their potential. I also believe that families are forever and that as each of us dies, we will rejoin our loved ones, who have gone before us, and work together to protect and assist our posterity. I believe the body is sacred and that it should be cared for upon death with respect and reverence. And finally, I believe that families mourn the loss of their loved ones because love is spiritual and transcends death. That is why I am a mortician. That is why I serve not only the dead but the living.
My therapist sees her job as helping the living live more healthily. She sees the dead as serving her profession and mankind by providing additional health-related information. In my eye, a mortician’s job is to bury your loved ones and to help you recover from the devastations of loss.