Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I'm back, and I survived Christmas. If you're reading this, obviously you did too. Well done y'all.
I have too many sad stories from the funeral home over the break. Taking someone away during a time when every other household in the street is celebrating for Christmas, it really brings home the fact that death doesn't wait for anyone. No siree.
Also, I'm pretty sure Santa died because there is a man in my fridge with a big tummy (although bloated with gas and fluids), a big white beard and white bushy eyebrows. Quite obviously Santa pushed it a little too hard this year.
I'm preparing for New Years now but I have no idea how I'm going to ring the new year in. I really want to spend it with my favorite people but at the moment the world seems a little sideways. New energies, show yourselves already!
2011 is going to be the year of until it kills me. Belie' you me.
Party safe yo. x
Monday, December 20, 2010
Generally speaking, when male mourners make funeral arrangements their decisions are based on the availability of funds and the ease and effectiveness of procedures. It's not surprising really, but women focus their decision making on emotional connections and sentimentality.
Women often say things like "We'll select a flower arrangement to match the coffin, to match the dress that Nan/Mum/Hildeberg is wearing...of which was her favourite colour in 1985 and was the colour of the bridesmaids dressing at the wedding....." and so on and so on. I think it's nice that the ladies seem to ride the funeral personalisation band wagon. It makes things all the more interesting, but is it interesting for me just because I'm a woman (and a funeral director at that)?
Death is a non selective process, as in death gets us all at some stage, so we have a pretty good sample for a study on buyers choice patterns. Our 'customers' come from all religions, nationalities, classes and orientations, yet it really does seem as though when it comes to planning funerals the boys rush in and out and the girls stay and play for hours.
Is this the groundbreaking discovery that women are more at ease about and around death than men, or is it that dudes just don't really seem to be excited about flowers and frills? Interesting...
I had to put this up. Sorry Lindsay. Bad angles?
I ran into Lindsay McDougall last night, or should I say, he walked right past me and then sat right by me. Out of all of the seats in the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, a man who I've only cut and pasted myself alongside in photos thus proceeded to insert himself into my physical reality. (Wow, that sounds really wrong.)
We've chatted a few times on jjj, but to meet and chat was quite a treat. As is he. It's not often you have a conversation with someone about a band you like and they say "Oh, I played guitar with them the other day..." Talent whore I say.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
There really are some awesome people in the world. I recently met one such individual via this very bloggy blogs.
Her name is Sophie Benjamin, a Toowoombite (?) who knows how to use scholarly words in a funny and thought provoking way. For some reason Sophie was inspired to use her talents to write about me and my funerary endevours in her very own zine, 'I am very busy and important.'
I think you should probably check out her website @ http://www.iamverybusyandimportant.net/. It will enrich your life.
Buy her zine (It's 2.50 clams) and read about media moguls, moving to Toowoomba and wolf wisdom. And a four page article about me! Hoorah!
Hello new fellow writer friend! Bravo! Exclamation!!!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Swoon. Joel McHale.
Pity he's married and already into the baby making. My life would be greatly enriched by being in his social circle/pants. My emotional wellbeing would increase, thus improving my work as a funeral provider.
(And happy weekend...I'm spending my Sunday off watching back to back episodes of The Soup, naturally).
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Happy One Hundredth Post Day Blog-A-Log! (I expect a letter from the Queen.) I will accept forgeries.
So today I'm up and about early because I have two very exciting tasks ahead of me:
1) Performance Appraisal Day: Most jobs have them, and believe it or not morticians have an annual performance review as well. We are self rated on all of our skills and job requirements and then the results are discussed with our supervisors and managers.
Things like our ability to display grief and empathy are observed, as is our precision and attention to detail in facial preperation, our ability to encoffin....It's all very much job specific. It all makes me realise that if I was to enter another industry things would be very very different.
2) Secret Santa Day: Funeral Directors share the best secret santas. Most of the time it's funny jokey stuff, but last year there were some pretty sweet kris kringles floating around. I'm keen for some booze, but we'll see what lady luck brings.
Happy friday, I've got to find some socks!
In the wonderous words of Mr David Bowie, it's time to turn and face the strain (Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes).
I'm leaving my cosy, paper crane hostel of a mortuary for a bigger, bolder and bustling mortuary situated in my employers main operations building. It's only about 20 minutes away, but to me it feels like I'm leaving Kansas in the quest to conquer Oz. There is no place like home, but I need to get my head around the emerald city o' corpses.
I wouldn't leave if I could stay, but this bigger mortuary needs some serious love and attention to get it up to scratch. Sometimes it's the busiest places that are overlooked and it's my new job to make sure that the staff, the environment AND the deceased are comfortable, safe and managed.
I'm quepping balls. I'm going from a solo mission to a mega conglomeration of staff. I'm used to listening to whatever I want, singing full gusto without any feedback. Wearing whatever I want, with no one to see that I haven't tweezed my eyebrows in a month. I have no idea how I'm going to fare around people that may judge me for the oddball professional that I am....
At least there's a constant. There will be blood, sweat and maybe tears. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I talk about myself alot when I write about my job. I don't know why. I think it's because it has been the precursor in my life to a level of personal maturity. I didn't have a teen pregnancy, I haven't lost any parents yet...I just became a mortician. Weird. And, only sometimes this maturity rears it's demure head...
Being in the mortuary, sometimes I forget to explain what goes on outside my brightly lit and bleachy-smelling (yet otherwise pleasant) four walls. I don't know what I would've thought happened when people actually die if I hadn't come to work with the slowly decomposing every day. Here goes my attempt at a concise and simple explaination.
People die for heaps of reasons. Most of the time because they were very sick, sometimes because they got sick really quickly, sometimes by accident, and sometimes by their own will. That pretty much covers it. That's the why (without getting into philosophy and population theories, cripes!).
Death for those that deal with the 'immediately-after' side of things is broken down into unexpected death and expected death. Whenever someone dies outside of a hospital, expected or unexpected, the ambulance or personal doctor is called to do their thang. When the death has been expected and the doctor agrees to sign off on a cause of death (referred to as the all important Form 9, just to get technical) the funeral home is then called to take the deceased into their care. That, my friends, is me!
When either the death is unexpected or the doctor cannot for whatever reason sign off on the Form 9, the coroner may be called to take on the case and deem the cause of death. In this case, a funeral company under contract is called by police to transfer the deceased to the John Tonge Centre in Brisbane for coronial investigation.
Of course, the family is a funeral homes focus. We stay in touch from the moment we recieve the first call until after the funeral takes place. Following the first call, the family is assigned an 'arranger' that is a contact person for the particular branch where the funeral home runs from. Arrangers are like angels, but sometimes have big bellies, ancient briefcases and snorty laughs. I generally like them as people. They pretty much organise everything paperworky and tricky.
So, generally the funeral can run however the family want. There is a stock standard committal, but most funeral diectors prefer it when the deceased is honoured with a really personal tribute that shows us who they really were in life. Sounds cheesy but the more work for us, the happier we are because it makes the job crazy interesting. I know at least I walk away feeling like I've made an important connection after every one. I remember deceased names sometimes better than I do walking, living and breathing people.
Anyway, I prepare the deceased a day or two before the big send off, and often people 'view' the body a day before the service in a special reflection room filled with ambient lights, nice couches and soft mozarty-kind tunes. It's a good way to deal with the realities I think. I'm all for demystifying the process, and it makes it so much less scarier. Kind of like eating prawns for the first time. (Kinda?!?)
Then, after the service the body is cremated or buried. The immediate tasks are over and generally, the long road to healing begins.....A long, long rong it is.
Peace and Love.
P.S. More on cremation and burial to come. Lots more!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
I realised today that it's almost been a year since my good friend Gus convinced me to think about writing a blog. I've said this previously, but it was during a sunny, punch fuelled Australia day bbq that the idea was first conceived. I think I might show you what the day looked like so you can visualise....
....yup. I'm rocking the sensible brimmed hat and the penis cup...
Anyway, It was a great day and a great idea. Many a win has been borneth from this very blog. Because of it's success, I feel that I need to celebrate the blogs anniversary with a killer blog party. It did strike me though that I should probably wait until the official one year birthday (May 21st), as you don't really celebrate someones birthday on the day their mum and dad shared sexy times.
So, you (dear reader) need to prepare for May 21st. It's a long way away, but food for thought. I'd really like to see a couple of bands, maybe even the debut of the man band, in a rollerskating rink? Or, as will probably happen, a Brisbane venue with plenty of ale and space for a polka.
If there are any Brisbane bands that a) have tambourine girls b) use castanets or c)want to play at my party for free/for limited booze/for my appreciation then drop me an email. I'd (probably) love to have you.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I attended the most elaborate and amazing funeral service yesterday. A much loved and widely respected individual passed away and thousands of people mourned the death. It was a breath-taking experience, yet one that made me think about those that pass that don't, for one reason or another, have any sort of send off at all.
A shift in popular choice from burial to cremation has occured over the past 40 odd years, and with this came the reluctant advent of the NSNA. An NSNA arrangement in funeral director jargon means 'No service and no attendance.'
For funeral homes, this is the still respected yet least favourable arrangement, as the costs are so low that as a business there is little to make any money from. As you can probably tell from the last ninety-five posts, I'm not so keen on making profit from grief so that side of the NSNA arrangement doesn't phase me in the slightest.
I understand also that some dying people, as a final request, ask not to have a funeral service. Makes sense to me. Some selfless people would prefer their familes to use that money for a holiday or for the grandkids trust fund. Other people just don't want any fuss so they prearrange and opt for a no frills attached 'essential' coffin and meet their maker without much further ado.
I pause for reflection however when a John Doe is transferred into our care. Of course, as they have no known family or friends, the government pay for only the bare essentials. It's a similar scenario when family members have no money at all, and the deceased doesn't get to tread indulgently into the afterlife draped in silks and fineries.
In all NSNA's; un-healthy, un-wealthy, unwise or wise, each deceased person gets the same level of care and compassion as the next. I figure, when you're dead you need a friend in the fridge (and that's me).
So, even though no-one is going to see them I paint their nails and blow dry their hair. They even get a spritz of chanel and a slick of lippie (only the ladies, or the men if requested and they're that way inclined). In the mortuary everyone gets treated the same regardless of whether or not the lid will be lifted ever again. Word.
This post is dedicated to you, my unsung NSNA's. You are somebody to me.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
(Sage advice, picture philosopher.)
Imagine over 150 funeral directors, cemetery staff and crematorium operators at a party together. What do you envision?
I had the pleasure of this experience on Saturday night, and contrary to popular cultural belief it appears that those in the 'death care' industry really know how to let their hair down. Behind the gents' perfectly double-windsored ties and the ladies' meticulously manicured fingernails lies a collection of kindred souls that crave a good rum and coke and a samba session.
I haven't blogged enough this week, mostly because I'm in major recovery mode. For the first time in a while I didn't slip into my bed until 4:30AM the morning after the party. I thoroughly indulged. So much so, that I remember texting my manager who was out at another club that I couldn't meet him because I could no longer see....
Sometimes, you just have to kick your heels up. Tis' the season, right?
P.S. Herein lies a formal apology to those that I may have slurred to, dribbled on, man-handled under the mistletoe, unabashedly body slammed.... Feel free to take me out again in twelve months and assault me with such offences.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Happy Holidays to the Lindsay Lohan of yesteryear.
I went to a Christmas memorial service this week, held to honour and remember those that had passed during the year. Grandmas and Grandpas, Parents, Children and friends...It really hit home that on Christmas day so many Brisbane families will have a spare seat at the dinner table and thousands of stockings will go unhung for the first time.
I guess Christmas is the quintessential hallmark day where families are supposed to join for thanks and celebration. In reality, there'll be plenty of families cringing in each others company and grumbling about the fact that they 'have to' break bread with the people they try year long to seperate themselves from.
On the other hand, I have faith that there are families who use the holidays as they should be...a public holiday to hang out, share and learn and drink gallons of nog.
All of the observations about grief and loss I've made during the last twelve months seem relevant now that people are harking to the herald angels. Why wait until Christmas day to give thanks? Why do we only see distant relatives for Christmas, weddings and funerals? They're linked, thats why!
If you don't like them, perhaps don't see them. Try sharing light and positivity to those that turn your frowns upside downs. Simple as that.
Get festive fools (in moderation). Word.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I love this picture! (That little guy, for me, is the epitome of awesome.) It relates very little to this blog post...
I had a dream last night that I died. I don't know how I died, but my funeral was awesome. Everything was so rad that I figure I should document it, and what better way to do that than blogging it to share with y'all. It feels very self indulgent, but a healthy indulgence at that. Coming to terms with my own mortality, cripes!
It was a night time vigil, I think it was at 8PM. People rocked up to the chapel I work at, except they held the service outside under the stars in the carpark. They had a big tent up where I was, casket open with me in it in my skeleton onesie grinning cheesily. I had a corkboard coffin, and people took polaroid photos during the night and pinned them onto the sides. The ambience was really upbeat, all music festivally (without the bogans and tanned girls in denim vagina-exposing shorts.)
The celebrant was Elvis. The music was great and varied from Bon Iver, Fleet foxes and this really pretty Audreys song that I've always wanted... (pretty much stuff I'm listening to now) and my friends played some mariachi tunes...
Then people ate cake and laughed at all the photos I've taken while drunk. I was taken away to the cemetery in the side carriage of a Harley Davidson. I don't know where this desire came from, but it's fun! This is what I want.
So, I most certainly don't want to die yet. I have stuff I want to get done. If I do get topped though, WHAT A PARTY!!!!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I've seen some pretty horrendous things. Chilling, Disgusting, gag-worthy things. Yet, I generally only get close to a vomit when I'm faced with the considerable lack of personal hygeine that some (not all) people have in their last years/months/weeks/days.
I'm well aware that when people get older, they get kind of grosser. It's unfair, but completely understandable. I'm not picking on senior citizens here. What I am reporting is the toenail fungus people, the cellulitus people and the filthy rotten teeth people. The younger generation that die because, well, they didn't look after themselves?!?
Today I copped a doozy that left me running for the sink...
It was time for a resident of ours to be prepared. She'd been dead for well over a fortnight and she was starting to get a little on the nose. This didn't put me off so much, until I opened her mouth to clean and realised that she'd been eating mushy peas just before she'd died and her mouth was full to the brim.
I was astounded. It definately wasn't phlegm, as is often the case when people die from pneumonia. It was peas; some mushed and some in unchewed solid form. Then, when I tried to brush her teeth clean I could feel them wobbling and rotten under the bristles. Blurgh!
On another equally gross topic, why do some people never cut their toenails? Add that to the flaky and soggy foot skin, boob rashes and butt bandaids. I can take the gory stuff anyday, but general grossness...
Not a fan really.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Hark! I've got a zany story for you, and the tale isn't an isolated case either.
Double services usually are held for multiple family members who die in accidents and tragedies. Every now and again however, people die of a broken heart. Of course it doesn't say 'broken heart' on their death certificate as the official cause of death, but we recently had a husband and wife duo who passed away within hours of each other, one in hospital and the other at home upon learning the news...and you tell me that heartbreak isn't deadly!
Family members reported that it seemed the pain and suffering ate away at the widows will to keep living. Fittingly, as close as they were in life they were in death and their funeral services were joined. It's interesting to think that all that keeps someone living is the notion that they are living on Earth WITH someone they love. Woah right! I wonder if they got stomach aches or indigestion when they were pissed off with each other?
I can't imagine how it would feel to lose your best friend, your closest companion. Someone you build a life with; kids, houses, super funds and passport stamps. So much shared, and to know it all passes. And then, there's death.
To understand love as matrimony, must you also understand death?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
My dad found a dead guy, again.
It was less than twelve months ago that my dad was running through some bushland near his home when he found a young guy hanging from a tree. A particularly harrowing experience for someone less seasoned to playing with corpses, and dad was left traumatised (and within reason).
In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time talking with him about this initial event. Seeing a father figure in a fragile state is a strange mind f*ck really, isn't it? I shirked my daughterly responsibilites, partly due to the removal I thought my rank as 'oddly admirable family mortician' gave me, and partly because I was reluctant to honestly open up and offer my support as an adult in the family.
Yesterday dad called me with the news that he'd found dead dude #2. Again whilst on an early morning run he'd come across a vehicle that appeared abandoned. On closer inspection, a male had propped a shotgun between his knees and decorated the roof with his brains. Yuck! And Sad!
This time, dad isn't ok. At a time in his life where he should be taking the time to smell the roses, drive slowly on sundays and other such associated activities, dad is trying to forget frantic moments and crushing anxieties. This time, I'm ready to step up. As I was supported as a child, I will duly support my father.
This whole thing has made me remember that death isn't something that necessarily happens in cold, sterile environments either. My environment is safe and cool (and I play spectacular music) so it's relatively unchallenging, but out in the wilderness with dead people....I'd be shattered.
Dad, I don't like blood either. I'm sorry you were the one. (twice)
Sunday, November 14, 2010
I'm sensing the need rising. Go. Do. See. Feel. If the corpses could talk to me, live through me, what would they urge?
I asked a dead man today but his fixed and dilated moon gazers admitted nothing. What help was he, other than acting as the reminder in focus that in the end we're just skin and bones and all alone. I guess thats help enough. Another post-it note opportunity for some emotional reconnaissance.
Why do I feel the need to run if being alone is not the goal? Dead of Brisbane, answer me this!
Peace. (And help me find mine...)
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
What a sickness it is, when society allows a young girl to feel disgusted in herself because she has shape and form. I have seen what is left of a body after an eating disorder has wretched the young soul from it's bones. It's a breathtaking sight, and one that has literally knocked me backwards with shock.
You can't close a dead anorexic persons eyes easily, because the skin over the skull is so tight that there is not enough eyelid to cover the eye. And the lips are also pulled so tight and the teeth so overwhelming that the mouth is hard to close without making things look goofy. It's so sad, that the deceased can't even look at peace when the pain has gone.
The desire to be thin is overwhelming, and the skinny culture permeates even the most self-actualised young women. Damn you hollywood and all your assness! Stop preying on young maliable minds. And grown ups, push the glossy shit away!
Eating disorders break my heart.
[The Doctor : Wednesday 3 November]
Check out the link, it's my lastest JJJ interview that aired last Wednesday. It's short and sweet, just after the Pendulum people.
We talked decomposition, although very very loosely. Oh, and happy birthday for the lovely Hannah Wickes (the super lovely drive show producer). Hip hip Hooray!
I'm blogging tonight with a gin and tonic in hand. I enjoy a drink or two, but I don't often sink multiple spirits on week nights (spirits of the alcoholic type, not the boogey ones).
Please excuse my language, but this day has been a right fuck.
There must be something going on with the planets. I'm going to google it. Funeral directors must be more receptable to this celestial rukus because we have contact with the 'other side'...it makes sense right? Anyway, my entire workplace feels like a warzone because of the tensions running through the staffing. I don't know if the whole pre-christmas hatred is setting in, or if the paint fumes from the current renovations are making the bunch volatile...but something is up. I'm happy to supply those little chinese stress ball things. We need to increase the peace!
How do you deal with a funeral arranger that doesn't seem to think that the deceased persons suit is vital in the 'dressing' process? Or the arranger who thinks that transferring the deceased into our care is a procedure that can be done without people to carry the body????
Come on people, get yer shit together! Massage some balls.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
I shouldn't read the newspaper. It's that simple. Or at least, any stories to do with dead Brisbanites. Sometimes there's information on the googler that I just don't want to have googled.
I found out today that I am going to receive into my care the body of a child that I have been reading about in the news. From all the reports, this death is truly tragic. Heartbreaking stuff, and something that I am sincerely going to struggle with. When I read something that is emotionally draining, sometimes I can't pull myself away from learning more and more. It's whack.
It reminds me of a case of mine about a year ago, in which a woman aged 23 had committed suicide. I found her appareance shockingly like mine, and I stupidly committed a cardinal sin of undertaking a facebook search for her. I wanted to know what her profile pictures were, I wanted to know what her friends looked like and mostly I wanted to know if people were still writing on her webby-wall-thing. Did people know that she'd even died? When I looked, the day I prepared her, no one had written anything on her wall. It pained me and it haunts me. (And it also confirms that you should keep your facey page private unless you want your mortician snooping out your stories...).
I will never cross that line again.
Above all, this whole death scene reminds me that the teeny weeny hiccups that I face in my life are BULLSHIT. I don't know the pain of grim realities. And for this, I can only be appreciative to lady luck and her wonderous ways.
RIP young one. x
Monday, November 1, 2010
Happy Hallo-weezer for yesterday, readers and associated spooks.
I spent Halloween on transfers, picking up the newly departed and bringing them into the safe and welcome care of my mortuary's 'temperature controlled environment'. I desperately wanted to witness some thrilling ghoulish behaviour but as usual the dead loved being dead and didn't want to mess around. Lame! Bring on the terror, corpses o' plenty!
It was the first time that I'd ever been on transfers with a new guy at work,Ry, who's only 23. He's quite the young darling; reserved, clean cut and polite and after the initial "who are you and what are you about?" conversations I found out that he has a respectable music taste to boot. Surely then, such a refined young lad would be ok with dealing with an old ladies pee all over the stretcher?
I don't know how he fared, as he was too polite to let any emotions surface. Even on the drive back I asked if he had passed wind (I'm honest about these things, considering the body functions that I witness daily a fart doesn't particularly register as gross) and he said that if he did he would be horridly embarrassed.
So, nice to meet you properly Ry! Happy first transfer together, on this happy halloween. Just be honest about your van farts dude. There's always something stinkier in the vehicle.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It's a relatively recent promotion, but I am supervisor of the Brisbane - Gold Coast Mortuary Division within my company. It's only really three mortuaries in total that I 'supervise' but I've been finding it quite an interesting task. Managing staff is even more challenging than simply sewing up stab wounds and fixing eyes closed. And then, when you're managing a group of people who's job it is to make death normal nothing is really very normal any more.
You'd think that different mortuaries would run pretty much in the same fashion, but one thing my job has taught me is that different morticians have different ways to get their job done. We prefer different soaps, use different hair drying techniques, and have favourite bandages. One common difference is the radio station choice, which I must say is a particularly sensitive territory.
I'd like to say to my mortuary maidens; Sue, Charlotte and Erika.. Thanks for your support and patience. We love our jobs, and I'm pretty damn happy that I have hard-working, dedicated and professional hooligans that I can share this experience with.
Oh, and you guys have mad skills with scalpels and lipstick brushes...
Me: Hey Matt, I'm Sarah.
Matt Caughthran: Oh hey, Sarah the mortician! What's going on dude?
Me: (insert lame girly giggles and over-ferocious handshake).....
This happened. I met one of my favourite bands, and since saturday night I've barely been able to wipe this goofy ass smile off of my face. Now, I wish to pose the question: How does someone I really love...actually know of me? Biggest trip out moment of my life. Two years ago at soundwave I almost died, narrowly escaping being trampled in a moshpit watching the band, and now I have sat backstage watching them rehearse in their undies. Best turn around.
I decided on Thursday last week that I would email jjj and suss out if they could hook me up with some sort of meet and greet. Mariachi El Bronx was coming into the studio to chat with my good radio friend Lindsay McDougall. For some reason they agreed to organise a photo with the guys, and to top it off they asked a few questions during the interview for me and mentioned me on air...
Now, I'm enjoying cashing in on the social credit this exposure has brought me and I'm pretty sure I'll get some sort of dancing taco tattoo to memorialise the experience...because that's how I roll.
In other news, I won that scholarship! Ima going back to school mum! I got my bag packed, my shoes tied tight...I hope I don't get in a fight!
Peace yo. x
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
I hate flying.
The fear is called disambiguation, so wiki says. Aerophobia, aviatophobia or pteromechanophobia. Whatever it is, I gots the cloud fright. Give me crazed clowns any day.
Perhaps it's the only repercussion of witnessing the decomposed remains of a young family who decided to fly a small plane in bad weather; and this within a couple of months of starting my mortuary career in 2008. (Oh, wait.. I'm not a great passenger on long drives either). Transportophobia?
I'm heading to Melbourne tomorrow morning, only to fly back that afternoon for a day. Then, Friday I'm heading back for Mariachi...It's THIS FRIDAY! The trouble is, I can't get excited about Friday until Wednesday is over.
Flight number one is for a scholarship final round; if I speak knowledgably enough about social media to beat two other peeps I get money for some sweet education. So, if all goes swimmingly prepare to be blown away by eaten knowledge next year. I'm thinking of doing my honours on some cross cultural funeral practises or maybe grief expression. Whatever the topic, it'll be death related so stay tuned.
So, planes. 4 within 5 days. If I go down, I will be wearing my favourite undies and my teeth will be plaque free. The odds of an aviation disaster are pretty low, but then again, those stupid disaster shows do bad things to my sensibilities!
Life, don't end now!
(P.S) Luck me at 1.15PM Wednesday y'all!).
Friday, October 15, 2010
What is up with that dogs eyes?
ANYWAY, my birthday is on Monday. I just had a conversation with my father and the last thing he said to me was 'Remember, I need some grandchildren Sarah. Hurry them up. Get married."
Dad, I understand your intent to see me happy, but really... REALLY? I have no sperm, for one. Then, I have no money, no self control and no patience. Sorry pops, but in the next 365 days I highly doubt that any fruit will be beared from these humble loins. Gross.
So I won't be adding to the population this year, but I sure as hell will be taketh-ing away. It was weird today as I prepared four bodies; two ladies and two men to be buried or cremated on my birthday. I'll be at work eating cakes and goodies and wearing a little celebratory pointy hat and they'll be heading six feet under. My happy day is their very very sad day. I've always thought of October 18 as the best day of the year but for Bruce, Betty, Jessica and Williams's families, the day will forever be marked by loss.
Happy new year, ol' body of mine.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
All they say about the eyes being the gateway to ones soul; maybe I know something about that from today's experiences. Just maybe.
I assisted a medical professional in a bilateral enucleation today, which, in fancy jargon, means that we removed someones eye balls for donation. The altruistic donor was a beautiful lady of 70 something, and during the procedure I couldn't help but stroke her white hair and focus on her perfect (although pale) complexion. What a darling. Giving is winning.
The whole act took about a half an hour, but most of that time was spent by the doctor fastidiously organising the layers and layers of disposible sheeting and hygeinic paraphernalia that he brought in a cute little suitcase. A couple of simple but expertly directed snips later and the peepers were safe in two seperate specimen containers, ready to be dissected and shared with someone in need of better goggles.
After the removal it was strange looking into the ladies face, two big caves where her sweet blue eyes used to be housed. I wondered what her ghost would've thought if she was hovering near by. After some cotton padding, plastic caps and tiny invisible stitches, very swiftly the resemblance of normality returned. In fact, she looked happier and more peaceful than she ever did. Her new cotton packed slumber gave her an appearance of bliss. Maybe her eyebrows were a little more raised or something, but she really did look joyous.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Ever heard of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? (It's featured in an x files episode called "our town", which is pretty cool...if you are awesome...)
Basically, its incurable, always fatal, and largely terrifying.
It's thought that we can contract the disease from eating beef that is infected, and most people know the disease by its nasty name of 'mad cows disease.' Cannibalism in tribes and that sort of thing was a big spreader of the whole schmozle apparently.
That's just one piece of 'meh' info that I'm not sure about, but generally the disease really badly damages the brain and makes it look like a sponge. It's a prion disease, which I think means that a protein in the brain goes wacko?!? Google it anyway if you're so inclined.
The reason I'm writing about it is because I think it's pretty much the scariest thing to deal with as a mortician who doesn't have a hugely scientific background. I mean, we're taught about infection control, but it's rather terrifying when you're working with a dear dead little darling who has an illness that could most certainly kill you. I dealt with it today and I was dressed in about 4 layers of PPE, just to be sure. I sweated like a banshee.
Health regulations do state that deceased people with CJD can be looked after just like anyone else, as long as they haven't had an autopsy. In this case, a qualified embalmer has to carry out any cosmetic work because the risk of infection is remarkably higher. Neurosurgical instruments are bad bad bad, as the cerebro spinal fluids are a mega contaminant.
The things I do huh. And for about the same amount as a check out chick at woolies! The lovely lady today looked amazing in the end. I don't discriminate by what people died from, they're all in need of my TLC (even if I have to scrub the skin off myself after).
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
What am I doing as a mortician? It's offensive to the physical, moral and aesthetic tastes of the average folk!
I think this all the damn time. I hate poop. I hate decomposing flesh. There is this stuff called 'purge' which is the dead version of vomit; part blood, part snot, part poo plus more...Some days it all gets pretty hairy. I guess all in all, the good stuff outweighs the bad.
A co-worker of mine, Paulie, celebrated his twentieth year anniversary working within the funeral industry. Twenty years! Imagine the number of eulogies he has heard, all the palls he has beared, all the coffin lids he has sealed. Paul, let us sit down, me at your side. Spin me your tales, oh wise man! (Seriously, this man is an inspiration. I am so lucky to have him as a mentor and a friend).
I wonder if I'll be in 'Death care' in twenty years. Even if it's simply for some continuation in my life, I think I'd still like to be involved with the Grim Reapings of the community. I can't wait to see what changes evolve the industry, and perhaps I can be a player in the uncovering of the mysteries of the deep dark dead.
Congratulations Paulie! For he is a jolly good fellow.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Have you ever heard of the sin eating folklore?
This s%^t be whack! My good friend Howard, a funeral director, was very excited to tell me about this 'sin eating ritual' he had learned about in a movie. I wikipedia'd it (sigh) as soon as I got home and, lo and behold, this ritual practise seems to have been pretty freaky but largely unstudied.
The term 'sin eater' refers to a person who, in a wacky ritual, pretty much took on the sins of a dead person by eating food off the corpses chest! Traditionally, it was performed by a beggar, and some villages had their own special sin-eaters. They would be brought to the dying person's bedside, where a relative would place a crust of bread on the chest of the dying and pass a bowl of ale to him over the corpse. After praying or reciting the ritual, he would then drink and remove the bread from the dead dude and eat it, the act of which would remove the sin from the dying person and take it into himself....
Crazy! What sort of person just takes on someone elses sins for food? Ummm, probably me. I don't really fall for superstition and I love ale. A lot.
On another note, a group of ministers in training came in to the funeral home for a tour today. It was funny, I didn't really assume younger folk to be ministers, so I had quite the shock. Religion huh. Anyway, I gave the obligitory cheesy speech about what my job entails, including the 'I hope I don't see you again' farewell...nervous laughs aside I think people loved it. Ministers, eat my sins? You'll have a lot of chins. Resorting to rhyme. See post script note.
P.S. Writing whilst someone in the other room is watching a particularly steamy episode of Mad Men is a challenge...the biggest challenge to my writing yet.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
You know what's rad? Ladies night in the mortuary! (Well, Ladies day. Night just sounds funner).
It doesn't happen very often but occasionally there'll be days in which only ladies are to be prepared for their funerals. Some times guys just don't die that day... It feels like I have a beauty salon of my own but the customers are just really tired and quiet.
For some reason I get really excited by this and my work gets fine tuned for the primping and priming that my job entails. The ladies get a full bubble bath, shampoo, condition and blow dry, styling and cosmetic makeover. Even though they smell pretty crappy when they initially come in, they leave looking like Betty White and smelling like Chanel No. 5 (A donation from a previous client who didn't need it anymore!). My girls are classy broads, I tell you!
I usually like to use pretty, soft natural colours on my ladies faces but I do whatever the family tell me to. I get a little sad when they say "Please use very natural makeup but she would want red lipstick and blue eyeshadow." Wtf. Puhleese, blue eyeshadow on a dead person...it looks revolting. Their eyes are permanently closed so you see blue all the time, no eyeballs moving around to break up the focus on the hideous lid. Make up on corpses is pretty simple, although people with gammy teeth can also piss me off. I like a smooth lip line as the face is completely scrutinised due to the stillness of the corpse but sometimes, nanna doesn't have the features to pull off death...But I love to try!
I had a random thought today as I was washing a ladies hair. What would happen if you died in the shower while you had conditioner in. You know how you leave it on while you wash the rest of your body and go back to rinse it after...Anyway, if you fell and it didn't rinse out, imagine how soft it would be when it came time for the mortician to rinse out the conditioner that had been in your hair for who knows how long?!?! Just a thought. Funny huh.
I love the rain.
There is something really special about working in a mortuary while it's storming outside. It sounds strange, but the room takes on a different feel. It's quite beautiful. The rain was percussion on the garage roof and my thoughts were a little melody I guess. To make it even better, today I was given a copy of a CD to listen to while I worked. My new friends at the Guitar Repairers in Red Hill said that I'd fall in love with an artist named Gillian Welsh....and an apt assumption they did make!
Holy amazing, her album 'The Revelator' combined with the rain made my afternoon spectacular. You know, when you have those moments where everything seems to be perfect because you accept the universe's riddles? I was working on a beautiful looking little old lady, I was alone with sweet sweet tunes and I sorted out some anxieties in my mind. Thank you clarity!
The afternoon went as described until I realised that our garage had started to flood. My co-workers and I had to rush around to move out three hearses to higher ground and relocate some coffins off of low racks so that nothing could be water damaged. You see, the entrance to the garage is pretty much in a ditch so water flows in pretty badly, tsunami style. Let's just hope I don't get a phone call in the middle of the night saying that the mortuary has started to flood and we need to move our lovely patrons to another location. I think there's about 10 guests in my hotel so that will be a mission!
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Check this out!
A lovely lass from JCU decided she wanted to write about me. Go team! You'll find what she wanted to say at the link above.
Be safe this weekend ok...I just looked after a young man that, if he wasn't a corpse, I would probably fall in love with. Pity he had too much fun last weekend....
I'm reasonably confident in most aspects of my employment, but there are occasions where I feel pretty unequipped. My weakness is my entire lack of muscle, I gots me no brute strength. Sigh.
Who would've thought that to be an undertaker you need to be pretty physically fit? I guess, when you think about it (which I didn't), when people die they can't pick themselves up off the bathroom floor and walk themselves down the five flights of stairs into the transfer van...
I remember my first weekend of transfers well, which when basically described is when you go to wherever the person has died to pick them up and take them back to the funeral home (this only refers to natural deaths, suss ones involve the police and police contracted undertakers.)
I had only just learnt how to take the stretchers out of the van without the whole thing slamming to the ground. This involves this whole technique of gravity and clicky things and smooth movement, all skills of which I lack completely. When it was time to pull the stretcher out in front of the family I was probably the most afraid I have ever been in my life...they were all staring at me, most likely thinking "How the hell did such a little, mousey girl get a job like that. Strange..."
Two years later and I still fear the damn things. I don't like the fact they go up and down and the legs are bendy. I'd prefer to piggybag the corpses if I could, fireman stylz for sure. I haven't dropped anyone yet, but the scenario plays over and over in my fears...
Monday, September 20, 2010
People often ask me what the hardest part of my job is. I re-contemplate this, and most of the time I answer that it's being alone in a room for an extended period of time. I think I lie to save myself the explanation of the ultimate bummer and the ensuing emotionally charged conversation. I quite enjoy being alone to listen to whatever I want. I just don't like seeing children die.
Most people would understand that it's pretty horrible, but it seems as though it only gets harder and harder the more cases I come across. One of the first bodies I ever saw was a thirteen year old boy, but he was very very sick so I could see that death for him seemed natural. I am challenged however when a baby or child looks perfect, untouched, and sleeping. They are taken in the still of the night, and that to me is pure heartbreak.
I have posted before that I make an origami crane for little lives that are lost. I think it's just as much for me as it is for them. It was in the mortuary that my first maternal feelings surfaced, and I (very sadly) learnt how to perfect a cotton nappy on dead babies. I cuddle and sing to them for as long as is appropriate. Sounds creepy, but I think it helps. I sometimes feel like because their folks can't be there Aunty Sar has to step in to make sure the baby is safe until it leaves my care. Finally, I leave them all in the watchful care of a responsible looking dead old lady...surely if their little caspers are around the old lady ghost will take charge and make sure stuff is going smoothly and the kids aren't running amok?
I guess what I'm saying is that I hate it, but I love to help. Someone's got to do it, I can, and I will be there. (Creepy Aunty Sar and her zombie kiddos.)
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I've made an important decision. Some would say, the most long lasting decision I'll ever make.
If (or I should say when) I die, I want to be buried.
I've got some pretty cool reasoning behind this I think, and once you think about it I am sure you'll agree. When you're cremated your body is here one day and pretty much gone the next. If it was possible to be made into cocaine or something high inducing and snortable that would be pretty cool, but if it's just some dusty powder flakes then I'm just not convinced that this form of body disposal is significant enough for me.
Burial is the only option I think, simply because that way I get to become a skeleton. Skeletons are just about the most interesting things around. If anyone is rich and wants to buy me one for my birthday I would be very appreciative....
Anyway, if you're cremated you give up the option of your flesh falling away and your bones being the showstopper. I have a plan to write in it my will that in 300 years after my death if my family wishes they can exhume my skeleton and put it on display in their home....great nana Sar hanging out again above ground...the great great great grandkids putting me in compromising positions in who knows what future fashions....maybe I'll fly to the moon.....
Best idea. It's 7.30AM....I shouldn't write this early....hahahahaha.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Note to Whoever: Play this at my funeral.
Also, note to self: Find and marry this man.
Alright, it's time to take charge. I need to exercise before I end up on my own table. My butt is starting to extend pretty far into my thighs, is that normal? It's all a bit sad really.
A few months ago I borrowed a BMX and rode to work and back every day for a fortnight. It was super fun, partly because I'm still a little kid and also because I am a RETARD and have trouble riding confidently in a straight line. I played this game in which whenever I saw one of those suburb signs I had to ride in between the poles. This is a huge challenge if you overthink your general path positioning and freak the f&*! out. I do this. I do however reward myself with a 'ding ding' of the bell if I make it through without running over dogs, small children or my own feet. You know how it is. And yes, this BMX is black and tough and it has a skeleton on it but it also has a really cool bell.
Alack and alas, the bmx's brakes are really squeeky so I returned it to it's rightful owner. I'm driving my car with some type of shock absorbing lamo problems that I can't be bothered paying for, so I should probably bite the bullet and spend $50 on a new second hand bike. Yes, I need a new bike. I live on a mega hill, so I'm thinking this time that gears are necessary...
I remember when I was about 6, my older sister Deborah tried to make me ride my bike without training wheels down an alley way to get something from the shops. (She'll love that I'm recalling this...)I freaked out because the alley had those bars in the middle to slow people down and I couldn't find the brakes. Instead of being calm and figuring it out I just threw myself off the bike at quite the speed, but somehow went over the handle bars in the procedure. Anyway, I totally ruined the purple catchit shirt I was wearing and split my chin pretty clean open. To make the story even more incriminating for Deb, who was about 12, she put me in a car with a strange man she didn't even know... he saw the accident and told her that he would take me home to my dad.
Who the crumbs was this man, you ask? We never found out, he said he knew my parents but I think he probably wanted to steal me. Dad had no idea who he was. Anyway, Deb kept on riding to the shops and picked herself up some cobblers and life savers and after being dropped off home by this potential pedophile I was sent off with Dad to get 4 stitches in my chin. Stitches in your face are terrifying because you can see all that stuff going on. (If dead people can see what I have to do to them, gah!)
Thanks Deb. What a great big sister! x
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I've recently committed myself to slogging out my days in the mortuary for another couple of years at least. You know why?
You made me.
And to think the blog idea was born on Australia Day, floating on a water noodle in the pool whilst consuming my body weight in sausages, lamingtons and a toxic punch... (Thanks Gus for the initial brainstorm and your instigation of enthusiasm, I owe you.)
I have dreams of writing a book. Not a normal book chaptery book, but a scrap book of cartoons, art, diary entries and short stories about death and life and music and, well, fun things. Cool huh.
I also want to meet Kerri Anne Kennerly. Maybe also Ellen De Generes. Just Saying. It could happen.
Oh, and from any money I make I want to drive around America looking at petrol stops, eating hotdogs, washing dishes, playing mediocre music and...well...writing for you.
This is my wish, and this is my intention.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
This is what happened the last time I was on a weekend vacation.
I had a tooth removed the week before the trip and I got a dry socket...I can't really explain what that is, google it, but it was revolting. I was in a tremendous amount of pain and none of the alcohol that I was consuming at the time was soothing it. So, I did what any spontaneous, partied-up, cartoon loving person would do and found the dodgiest, cheapest tattoo parlour in town to ink me up thus commemorating my little lost dead toothy. Furthermore, I've named him Elvis P. Tootherton (no-one knows what the P stands for).
I'm heading down to Melbourne in mid October to see Mariachi El Bronx with a bunch o' my favourite peeps and I'm thinking about getting a little something something somewhere, just as a souvenir. Maybe a little ghost? Maybe a cowboy? Can somebody draw me something?
I think, more than anything, I like tattoos because they remind me not to take my skin too seriously. Skin schmin! Sure, if I make it to be 50 I'll probably hate that I have a tooth on my wrist and who knows what else...but I could die tomorrow. Also, if I keep sane and my character remains intact, I can use the tattoos to connect with my youth and pass on stories to my cabbage patch kids. I think I'd love that! And what better justification could I have other than the fact that I want my mortician to have a good indication of what sort of person I was in life...postcards from a yesterday for them to imagine...
P.S. Draw me a tattoo, peoples of the universe!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Today was fantastic!
You can probably see from these pictures that I didn't have a lot of work to do so it was a chance for me to take a breather!
I dressed myself head to toe in mega huge bubble wrap, complete with asian style hat, slinky dress and shoulder wrap. It was a hit with the manager FO SHO!
Then I pretty much ran around writing funny things on things for the majority of the afternoon. Isn't it funny that there is seriously a brand of eucalytus oil called double d. A drop is great on a face mask to hide malodours, but double d boobs are also great!
Yay for nonsense days, even morticians need them to unwind!
Oh, and I saw a vintage pair of high heels that were branded 'Pennywise'. Awes!
Peace and relaxation
Monday, September 6, 2010
I need a 101 lesson in hugging. It's unfortunate, but I have always been anxious about actions pertaining to the sharing of togetherness.
For as long as I can remember I have been envious of those that look natural when they partake in a welcome casual hug. My friends do it, all the time. They are the epitome of awesome casual huggers. In fact, they even do the peck on the cheek hello thing. Boys and girls inclusive. I think they might be surprised that I am even writing about this topic because I 'fake' the coolness and internally, I still get all 'ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!'. I WANT to hug, that intention isn't false, but I just don't know where my body goes...
The reason that this topic is front of mind is because when I am on call I'll generally give the deceased's family members a hug if they look like they're edging in for one. It's usually in the goodbyes, but sometimes old ladies will literally hug me as soon as I enter the room as if I am a saviour. It's funny, but I was thinking the last time this happened that I am more comfortable giving a strange old bearded lady a hug than I am hugging my own flesh and blood or my own best friends.
I guess, what I want from this, is to ask that people forgive me if they know me and maybe in the future we can try for a more rewarding casual embrace. No more high-5's, I promise.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
It's come around again, the on-call weekend.
If you decide to die of natural causes this weekend in Brisbane, chances are that I'll be one member of the smiling duo that will come to pick you up. Hello!
Today I feel a little amped, you know when you feel a strong surge of intensity in yourself that you can't quite understand the origins of? I'm sure if you believed in astrology or voodooisms then some planet must be retrograding or rampaging another one in my sign or something. All I know is, I'm glad I'm forcibly off the sauce this weekend. I was swooped by an owl last night too, so I'm sure there's some symbolism in that somewhere.
Maybe it was the soundtrack of the days mortuary work today that has me feeling a little rustled. Don't get me wrong, I loved it, but maybe the hopping across genres was too roller-coastery. Angus and Julia Stone covered Nelly Furtado on JJJ's like a version which was pretty damn fantastic, I mean, Nelly Furtado?
I guess Glassjaw, followed by Amy Winehouse wasn't very smart...I was all rar rar rar yeah then I was all like, "Gimme some coke and buoffant my hair..."
I'm not being very engaging today am I. Oh well. When I'm not carting around the peeps today I'm teaching myself some more harmonica, masterclass weekend in the blues my friends!
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
It's a very interesting day for me today. I'm going to a funeral.
The thing is, I'm off on bereavement leave because my mum's best friend died and today is her funeral day. Poor Edna, she was 80 something, at least 20 years older than mum, but they shared something rather beautiful in their differences.
I met Edna when I was about 12 I think, and terrified of her bunions then, I used to hate going over to see her. But, over the years she was a constant in mum's life (and therefore my teen years,) so I got used to having her around. She'd always have cans of coke in the fridge, icy cold. And everytime I was there she would talk to me about her daughter, who was then grown up, trying to bridge a commonality between us. Lastly, I did secretly enjoy reminiscing about her glory days as a successful dancer. Of course, I grew up and left home and haven't seen her since I was about 18. Bummer.
Today is strange because another funeral company is doing the service. I know, back to front, the way that I would run a funeral. But how are things going to go today? I think I'm going to do a lot of lurking, checking out the competition. I might try and rattle them....(only joking).
I hope there's a viewing too, because I've never seen how another Brisbane company prepares the dead. I don't know if there is and I'm not close enough to the family to ask, but I'd like to check out old Edna to make sure she looks dignified.
Hope things are continuing on somehow Edna, without the bunions. May you skip in the heavens, free of limp
Love Sarah. x
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
So, I don't know how to bring this up but I think it's a pretty funny social circumstance.
There's someone that I work around who has stinky breath. I don't think that's a really big deal, but what's funny is that combined with this they're a really close talker too! I mean, I work with my face about 15cm from a corpses mouth, but this persons pipe is pretty bad.
What's the etiquette in this occasion? Surely, they've broken into my personal space and surpassed that etiquette so I should be able to tell them their airways are rancidly decomposing.
Gah! I pretty much jump over the table and hide behind the fridge doors when they enter my general eyeline. What to do, what to do!?! Any advice is muchly appreciated, and probably enjoyed.
So, this sunglass company Sabre emailed me and was all like "Fill this in, we like you..." I was all like "Ok, because I like sunglasses...."...and this is what happened.
Beware, my face is REALLY BIG on the webpage, its a little scary for me..... Oh, follow this link -------->
TEN QUESTIONS ON LIFE - SARAH O'CONNOR
Beware, my face is REALLY BIG on the webpage, its a little scary for me..... Oh, follow this link -------->
TEN QUESTIONS ON LIFE - SARAH O'CONNOR