~it's your world now
use well the timebe part of something good~
People often ask me why I began a career as a mortician. My answer is generally satirical. I seldom acknowledge that the lure of the industry was an awakening of ideas and the beginning of my own epistemological journey.
Death. The unhinging of all of this that we are.
Before this gig I was working the counter of a successful cosmetic brand in a city department store. I studied full time and worked the cosmetics job four days a week, growing restless and disenchanted with the application of camouflage. My customers mostly wanted to impress a man or gain some power somehow, and although our quick exchange made me feel like I was giving these women a boost I was also painfully aware of the superficiality of my services.
One afternoon a co-worker threw a phone book on the bench and dared me to call a funeral home. There were two businesses in the city area. We'd been watching Six Feet Under at home and thus had begun a discussion on the practical applications of cosmetics on a corpse. Never shying from taboo, I called the first listing. As they say, the rest is history. They needed a mortician and I needed a challenge.
I'd seen a corpse just once before. Driving with my mother late one night when I was twelve, the head beams of our car illuminated a gentleman on his stomach, bloodied head still, contorted to face the direction that we were coming from. He was wearing a red checkered shirt and faded blue jeans. He didn't look mad or shocked or angry, he just looked like a very unfortunate splattered lumberjack. A police officer had ushered us to drive around the scene at the very time the covering blanket was moved for a forensic photographer to complete his work. I will never forget my mother's questioning.
"Well, what is it? What is it, for fucks sake?."
She was flustered by the commotion, but completely unawares.
"A man, mum. It's a man."
We drove the rest of the way home without any further discussion. How Bizarre by OMC came on the radio as we pulled into the driveway.
I was 17 years old when my best friend's father was killed. We'd been hanging about doing something teenagerish when she was called away to the hospital. I didn't see her again that night, as she and her mother had to make the very painful decision to switch off his life support after he was declared brain dead as a result of haemorrhaging. His death was so unexpected that the rest of 2002 was spent building this family, my extended family, a coping schedule.
As his death was a police matter, the road to healing for us was protracted well into the following years. There are many things about this period in time that I can't remember, possibly because I've blocked out those moments most painful. I remember his funeral though, as it was the first time that I'd attempted to understand tragedy.
I very openly sobbed through the majority of the service and I held on to my own parents as if the ground was going to gobble us up too. Through my distress, I wanted so desperately to keep it together. I was dizzy with grief, and I continue to acknowledge that the man that was buried that day often acted as my adoptive father at a time when my biological one wasn't always available. He went on a walk with his daughter and I EVERY Saturday morning to get the Courier Mail and buy us an icecream. He showed me how to cook a real english breakfast and bake the fluffiest of cakes. He took me to see my first music concert. He taught me what it was to work hard for every dollar you could bring in to the house. He ferociously loved his children, his wife, his bike, his life in Australia, and he never ever let us feel anything other than safe.
I will never forget the shock and the awe of that loss. The cataclysmic feeling that your world has been irrefutably changed forever. I know, almost eleven years on, that we think about him every day. This is what I remember every time I meet with a family who has lost someone in a similar tragic circumstance. Nothing makes sense and everything hurts, and there is very little that I can do apart from provide an honourable ceremony to make things...endurable.
An accidental death. An accidental awakening. An accidental career. One big purpose.
These occasions, thrown together in a story for you, make me make sense.