Why I’m a Mortician

“Why would someone like you want to do a job like THAT?!”

I hear this a lot. As in, every single time I tell someone what my job is. I’m not exactly sure what makes people ask this with such confused vehemence but my suspicion is that it has something to do with the myriad of mortician stereotypes that exist and the fact that I don’t exactly fit into them.
I’m a 26-year-old woman. Tall and skinny; blonde. My roommate often refers to me as “the world’s happiest mortician” to which I reply with a laugh and a smile.

This is definitely the question I get asked the most so I always have to have a story ready, but the real answer is that it’s kind of a mysterious how this started. I literally have no idea what made me choose this field.

Haha! No, I’m not kidding!

It’s a long story that I’ll try (and fail) to make short:

After high school, I studied at a 4-year university with a concentration in anthropology. For a few years, I felt like I finally found my calling in forensic archaeology but after researching the field, realized that no one is ever going to pay me enough money that I would be able to make a living doing that job.
After exhausting my resources on a study-abroad venture in Scotland, I decided to take a break from school. And by break, I mean the most miserable 1.5 years of my entire life. At any given time, I was working at least 4 part-time jobs (with side-gigs) to pay rent and barely feed myself with whatever was left over. It sucked real bad. I didn’t want to live like that anymore but had no idea what I wanted to do with myself.
Hilariously, I have no idea why I Googled the phrase “mortician cincinnati”. Well, I lived in Cincinnati so that part did make sense, but there was never a time in my life when I thought that I wanted to work in the funeral business. Now, looking back, this does seem like a natural fit into the morbid curiosities I’ve had since I was young: I did always have a fascination with the human body and for a few crazy years in my teens there were some stirrings of going to med school. And I did always have a fascination with death in TV shows, movies, literature, music, etc. But I guess I’d always taken these things independently of each other.
Anyway, my searching led me to discover the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, which is a college dedicated completely to helping one achieve the theoretical knowledge needed to become a licensed mortician in the US.

Well.

Alright then.

The next two years were spent in diligent study at other colleges to acquire the necessary prerequisites to be accepted into the CCMS bachelor program. I had never and still haven’t ever worked so hard to gain something because I’d never wanted anything so bad. When I failed or got stuck, I just remembered my goal and it kept me going. That education and the career paths laid before it seems like the one, shining beacon of hope in a dizzy, confusing existence.
Excuse me for being melodramatic, but all of this is really, truly what I felt at that time. My life was kind of stuck. I didn’t know what to do for so long that when this opportunity came a long and seemed so real, it changed my perception of myself from a being without a definitive meaning to a person with the infinite potential and inner strength to help others through something really tragic. Oh, and also I have a very strong stomach (shout-out to 4chan).

The one thing I can say for sure is that I never really knew what to expect.
Ha!
I kind of bumbled through school semi-blind, trying to figure out what I was doing there. I never really knew why I was there, I just knew it felt right that I was there. (But please, do not try to read some spiritual meaning into all of this because you’ll be at a loss, I promise.) The ‘why’ of my existence as a funeral professional came more as an incidental of working in the field rather than through my schooling.

So, really, when people ask me the burning question, they’re really asking me two things which I will now ask and answer:

1. Why did you decide to become a mortician?
ANSWER: I dunno.

2. Why are you a mortician?
ANSWER: Because I have never felt more daily personal fulfillment in any other thing that I’ve ever done with my life.

So now no one who reads my blog will ever ask me this question again.

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14 thoughts on “Why I’m a Mortician

  1. Resourceful, beautiful, interesting and can write a good story. If all that isn’t enough when you die she can make you look good. Booya! I never once questioned your decision, I thought it was smart. Everyone dies.

  2. I googled this question last week. Noticing the dat of your post, I’m so glad I tried again. I’ve been looking for reasons why most people who choose this profession do. I’m at the same point in my life… Struggling to decide what I want to do with it. I wanted to be a mortician when I was younger, but I let the people (dad) talk me out of it.

    I’m glad to hear that you found your way. I’m sure I’ll soon find mine as well.
    I’m from Cincinnati also, btw! Thanks for writing this!

    • Thanks for the encouragement!! My (very unsolicited) advice to you is not to force it too much. Check out everything that interested and think realistically about how you could see yourself working for a few decades. Honestly, I still don’t -really- know what I want to do with my life as a whole. I’m getting a better picture of it now but I still don’t fool myself into think I’m know for sure. We’re all still young until we give up and start feeling old.

      If you’re in the Cincy area, you should look into CCMS! Don’t let anyone talk you out of doing something that makes you happy, no matter how weird it may seem to them!

  3. I really have to commend you on your blog. You really have amazing writing abilities, and it’s a pleasure to read what you have to say about this field! πŸ™‚

    After years of soul-searching, I’ve decided to enter a mortuary science program this Fall. Like you, I’m also fascinated by the human body, and I had those “stirrings” of going to medical school throughout my life. My background is in Pathology…..I’m a Pathologist’s Assistant major, to be exact (bachelor of science), class of 2006. I was trained to do autopsies and perform organ dissections. I got absolutely nowhere in the field because the program wasn’t recognized by the NAACLS, so I couldn’t get nationally certified. That really put a huge damper on my ability to obtain and hold a job in the field.

    So throughout my career as a PA, I knew that something just wasn’t sitting well with me. I felt stymied by the fact that I couldn’t get certified, and I wasn’t going to go for a Master’s degree in the same field just to get my license. I explored numerous career options. Med school was completely out because of A) cost and B) my PA degree didn’t have the proper courses for entry. So for med school, I would have to go through a two-year post-baccalaureate pre-med program. There’s no financial aid for that, so again, I was screwed from going to med school. In reality, I was really screwed when I graduated from college….both for a career as a PA and for med school.

    I then contemplated going into teaching and pharmaceutical sales. Nope. Teaching would be great, but I don’t deal well with political bureaucracy. Pharma sales seems nice, but I don’t like the amount of risk and uncertainty associated with the job. So I decided to settle on mortuary science at my local community college. The tuition is crazy cheap, and my pathology background seems right in line for it. I also desire a service-oriented career that allows for a healthy mix of isolation and people contact. A business environment is also a great plus. So for these reasons, mortuary science just might be my best fit.

    Any thoughts or comments? I’d love to hear back from you! πŸ™‚

    • Wow, it sounds like you’ve put a lot of work and thought into your various career choices! I’m sure you’ll do just fine in mort science, since it not only seems to be a passion but that you think things like this through pretty thoroughly.
      Really glad to hear from another future representative of the field πŸ™‚ Good luck!

      • Thank you!! I’ll be attending the program in September. What to do until then is anyone’s guess. I’m just trying to fill up my time catching up on TV and movies that I haven’t seen yet as well as playing video games (to appease my inner nerd).

        I’ll be keeping up on your blog here and there, too. It makes for really interesting reading, and it’s always nice to see what those who come before me are doing!

    • You seem well-rounded in your medical career as a person who cares for the living, and understands that the dead are not just ‘ medical models or cadavers’. Thankfully the experience you have allows you to never forget that the model was once a very significant part of someone’s life, that they were a living, breathing, human being. This allows you to be respectful, selfless, and compassionate. I wish you well as you journey to a rewarding and fulfilling life in a career which makes you most content. Have you looked into the area concerning organ and tissue donation? I believe you might find what you seek in both medicine and mortuary aspects. The need for medical professionals as liaisons to work with families or para-educator for harvesting or matching
      may be one of interest to you. OneLegacy and Doheny Eye Banks would be a start for a search of related organizations. There is “hospice” to consider as well. Good Luck!

      • Thanks for the kind words, CJ. Funny how you mentioned a possible career interest in organ and tissue donation. I remember seeing a job posted somewhere about that. I’ll look into it more. I love the humanitarian aspect of the field, too. Thank you!!

      • You are welcome. I doubt that you will actually find job boards with this position posted for general consumption. You’re best bet may be to google the organizations and find them posted on those sites. Then, too, some of these positions are found in ‘who you know’ or by word of mouth through people in that network. LinkedIn and GlassDoor may be good sources as well.

      • Yep, I checked one of their websites, and it seems like I’m a good fit! I’ll send my resume over ASAP.

        I was never a fan of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I got into some hot water over posting in an online jobs forum before. That led me to withdraw from a Master’s degree program, and I’m sure it hurt my job prospects in my previous career. It’s amazing how ignorant people can be when they hide behind a computer. It’s really disgusting. So all I’m going to do is post my resume and not say anything in a forum.

  4. Thank you for this blog. A friend of mine died this morning, and so scrolling through my news reader your guest post on JT’s blog caught my eye. Reading Perishable Bliss has been oddly comforting and cathartic. Keep up the good work.

    • First of all, even though it’s played out, I am sorry to hear about your friend. I’m glad to know, though, that I’ve somehow provided you a bit of comfort.
      Incidentally, how are you doing with resources on coping with this death? There’s a really good group called Grief Beyond Belief if you’re ever interested!

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