A Career Change

Some of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware I am pursuing a change of career.

In short, I have just left my old comfortable legal job in a largish firm. I didn’t tell my colleagues the truth about what I am planning to do, because I didn’t want to be the target of their derision.

I’m only telling you now because it’s just a matter of time before people start talking. So my secret may as well be out in the open, and anyway it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

There’s nothing wrong with becoming a funeral home assistant. Some people will find it difficult to understand why anyone would choose handling bodies for their day-job, but for me it’s much more than just a day-job.

It’s a chance to have a go at something I’m passionate about and to make a difference. I finally have the chance to help grieving families by being a sympathetic voice, to provide comfort and support to the bereaved, and to be around all those cool dead bodies.

Most people don’t enjoy funerals, but I’ve always loved them, to the point of wishing elderly relatives would pass on quicker so we can get the ceremonies under way. What I love about these occasions is the dignity and solemnity of the gathered mourners, and the sense that a cherished and loved person has moved on to another place.

I especially love open casket funerals. Those dead bodies are so cool to touch!

It’s surprising how much work goes into organising a funeral. I have so much to learn, but like everyone I have to start at the bottom. I’m doing my apprenticeship with a firm in West Auckland, learning the ropes under an experienced boss who has seen it all and done it all, and who has a million war stories to tell. He has seen so many gruesome sights: people incinerated in fires, mangled bodies pulled from car accidents, and bloated and decomposing drowning victims dragged from the sea weeks after first going missing. I’m green with envy!

My boss told me about one guy whose funeral he had to handle. This guy was working at an industrial-size wood-chipper machine, and got pulled into the feeder when his jacket got stuck in the mechanism. You can imagine what got spat out the other end of the machine. The guy came to the funeral home in a series of plastic bags. I reckon it would have been a totally awesome body to handle, but I’m sure I’ll have a few fun stories of my own soon enough.

Admittedly my boss thinks my obsession with prodding and sniffing the bodies that come in is a bit odd, but he reckons the novelty will soon wear off. As for me, well I’m not so sure. Why shouldn’t I enjoy being around the people I work with? The human body has so many amazing secrets to tell, but most of us are too scared to get stuck in and get our hands dirty. Death isn’t something to be ashamed of or freaked out by. In the end all that gets left behind is this really cool and interesting collection of skin, meat and bone. So why can’t we have a little fun with it?

I should clarify that by “fun” I’m not talking about any of that weird sexual stuff. Apparently that sort of thing is rife within the industry, but I haven’t tried it yet.

So wish me well in my new venture, and I promise to occasionally write about the particularly awesome bodies I get to play with. And if I can post photos (I’ll have to check the protocols on doing this first) I will!