Archive for funeral

The Makings of a Mortician?

Posted in Creepy, Death, Life with tags , , , , , , , on March 31, 2015 by Stephanie Selby

MorticianSo posts are finally starting to pick up! This is the first proper one in quite some time. I hope I can keep this up.

It’s this stint I’m doing for Americorp that has kept me away; basically I’m tutoring kids with their reading skills. It’s nice to finally have a more long-term job that will help with paying off some of my student loans, but it’s very time consuming. Seems the difficulty of working over forty hours a week, plus having a social life, plus swimming on a regular basis has seriously cut into my ability to write. When I manage to have some free time I find myself taking a nap instead of doing something useful.

It’s not as bad as it sounds at all! I’ve learned a few things about myself volunteering with children. Mostly that I like kids. When I first started I was really worried I would discover that I was the kind of person that don’t enjoy their company. While they can be overwhelming at times and not everyone’s cut out for it, I found I can take it in stride. I especially enjoy the kindergarteners. Their energy can be difficult to contend with, but have got to be the funniest kids in the whole darn school.

For some time I was thinking about becoming a teacher. The kids are great, you get a lot of time off, and even though the pay isn’t great I’m not looking to get rich anyway. On the other hand there’s the parents, the administration, evaluations, state-run testing… Those parts of teaching are not so fun.

The truth is in order to be a good teacher and deal with all the nonsense, you really have to be dedicated to the job. As a writer who’s looking for a fulfilling day job in case things don’t work out, it didn’t sound like the profession for me. I know I’ll be happy to raise up some kids of my own someday, but the drive to teach kids isn’t high on my list of passions. At least not as high as a teacher’s should be.

So what are my aspirations? Writing’s the main goal, but what if I never become the next Stephen King or Neil Gaiman? What will I do then? I believe I may have stumbled across the answer. Considering my interests it’s weird why I haven’t considered it sooner.

Not too long ago a Reddit user studying to become a mortician posted an AMA on /r/creepy. I was intrigued by the user’s answers and delved further by looking into a YouTube channel they recommended. From there I became acquainted with Caitlin Doughty and her Ask a Mortician series. I binge-watched her videos and picked up her book Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory (I may write more about it if the fancy strikes me). Suffice to say working with the dead sound like a fascinating and fulfilling career choice!

So the plan is to save some cash while I’m volunteering with Americorp, then find a job in the funeral industry that doesn’t require a license. Perhaps transporting bodies or operating a cremation oven like Doughty herself. After some time I’ll likely figure out if the profession is right for me and if so, try to get into a school with a mortuary science program. I fully intend to continue writing throughout this process and I’ll keep you up to date with my thoughts on the matter. Here’s to a new journey!

A Funny Family Anecdote

Posted in Death, Family, History, Life, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Stephanie Selby
Hanford and Roslyn 2013 094

A horse-drawn hearse in Yakima. That’s my sister in the picture. I just thought that it would be a perfect fit here.

I’m pretty behind on chapter three of The Demon’s Day and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post anything tomorrow, so this post will be fairly short as I desperately try to finish writing the next one. For now I’ll leave you with a charming story from my extended family.

In the early part of the twentieth century, my maternal great-grandmother was a Nebraskan piano player. She’d would use her musical talents for all kinds of places and events; schools, churches, parties, weddings, and she would even play background music for silent films of the era.

However, she also offered her services for funerary practices. At the time, there were virtually no funeral homes as we know them today, and friends and family of deceased individuals would hold wakes in their homes. My great-grandmother would sit with the body and play music for visitors as they paid their respects.

There was one particular wake she attended that was the most memorable for her. It was a wake for a finely dressed older gentleman within his former home. While there were quite a few people coming in to see the man one last time, there came a long stretch of time where my great-grandmother was left alone with the body. This didn’t bother her at all; it was just another aspect of her job that she had experienced many times before.

Her mood changed when she suddenly heard a strange grunt coming from the direction of the dead man. She had had her back to him at that moment, but when that sound came she turned to look and see the body rising from his coffin to sit straight up. It was quite a shock to my great grandmother, but she managed to hold herself together as the dead fellow slid his body back into its proper place.

Now this may sound like an impossible story to some of you, but it’s actually a common occurrence for those that work with the dead. There are many scientifically sound reasons why a dead body may move on its own after the rigor mortis stage has passed. Electrical impulses, air or gas coming out of the body, or even gas created from decomposition will affect a cadaver before it’s put in its final resting place. While I don’t know the exact circumstances behind my great-grandmother’s strange experience, it’s little instances like this that make for great stories!