This I Believe

Debby - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on May 10, 2007

I believe I love my job:

One of my Myspace friends thought that perhaps my job was made up. I assure you both me and my job are quite real. I told him I really am a licensed mortician and I take it very seriously. For all the gross-out and odd ways I have about me (apparently some people find me a bit over the top but who gives a fuck?) I think what I do is incredibly important. It constantly challenges me both creatively and technically. It keeps me on my feet and moving. It keeps my brain and my wits sharp. It is difficult. It is backbreaking. It is what I am supposed to be doing. I am thankful I found it.

I have the incredible honor of taking care of the bodies of people’s loved ones. They trust me with their most valued memories which are indeed more precious than all the diamonds in Africa. I make it so they can see their loved ones one last time. The deceased can look like they crawled out of a horror movie and I will do my very best make it better. It can be a good memory they keep with them or it can turn into a nightmare that keeps them up at night for many years. It’s up to me how that turns out. Hence my name ‘Living Dead Girl’. It is not really a reference to a Rob Zombie song although he did give me the idea first. It is a play on words. I suppose you’d have to see my work in order to understand.

I constantly challenge myself to do better with each person I take care of. I know it is a good day if someone is crying. I help make it possible for them to let it all out and move on. Sometimes it rolls off my back, onto the floor, and down the drain, and sometimes I absorb the emotions and they disinigrate into a vast empty space inside of me and are then digested and evacuated through some unknown means. Each case is different and unique. Most of the time I succeed but sometimes I fail. If I fail once, a hundred good cases can’t make up for it. Let’s just say I don’t fail very often and then leave it at that.

Today I helped work on a teenage girl until 6 pm. She was beautiful and when I left her in my prep room tonight I thought she looked like a fairy princess out of some gothic storybook. I thought she looked beautiful but will the family think so? Will they leave the casket opened or will they be disappointed and close it forever remembering what their baby girl looked like as she sleeps the rest of eternity? Will they see their beloved daughter at peace or will they only notice what the sickness did to her and what the small nuances didn’t allow to be covered up? It’s those small nuances that take the most work and they will drive you crazy and make your mind wander if you don’t just walk away from them at some point, take a breath, and get a second pair of eyes to go over what you’ve done.

This is the challenge of my job and this is what I take home with me from work some nights. Not every night, just some. It sounds like hell but when I’m in the zone concentrating and there is only that dead body and me for a little while my life doesn’t matter. My problems don’t matter. What people think of me doesn’t matter. My bills don’t matter. Whether or not I go to the gym that day doesn’t matter. The way I smell after trying my best for 8 plus hours with no food while sick on my feet doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that lasting memory the survivors of that dead girl take home with them; be it 5 last minutes or a several days long visitation.

People at work think I have a large ego. I do not. If I had a large ego why would I constantly try to be getting better and better? Why would I be striving for more education? Why do I have no problem asking for help and opinions? To tell you the truth, my ego is very small. If I don’t stay humble my work will suffer. I constantly look for what is mistaken for compliments is really a search for feedback from my work. Laying out a body is not about one person’s work. The best morticians are never about relying soley on themselves to please a family.It is an idea much greater than the individual.

At times I am asked how I can do what I do. I answer with a question: How can someone be a fireman or a cop or walk on top of skyscrapers for a living? I don’t understand how someone can sit at a desk all day with a phone to their ear or stare at a computer screen or deal with 50 kindergardeners day in and day out. I used to have a shitty job for many many years. People look at my job and think it is a shitty job in and of itself. I know what shitty is. My job is not shitty. My job is rewarding, fulfilling, and emotionally charged.

Yes, I love my job with my heart and soul.

Update as of 3-22-07 I found out today that Fairy Princess’ casket stays open for 2 days.