I had a shot of inspiration for an interesting story the other day. It actually made me tingly. As usual, when certain stories come, I kind of lose control and the story itself takes over, wreaking havoc in my life. I can’t concentrate on anything else until it’s done. I love and hate when that happens, at the same time. This particular story that I’m working on, has some morbid elements and are quite essential to the story. This meant that I couldn’t do a basically glossed over write-up, with a dash of oomph, and a few numero-syllabled words to spice it up. I had to do some research. Then.., my research took me off on another tangent. So now, here I am, inexplicably morbid things, 6 million ways to kill a man, and how many ways to desecrate a corpse. I swear, I am not going to murder anyone. It’s all for the plot in my story. I promise. 😀
One really interesting part in my story, has to do with Mortuary Science. Of course, I went through a bunch of pictures, trusty old Wikipedia and Google and got a whole bunch of information, then it suddenly it dawned on me..
“I KNOW SOMEONE WHO DOES THIS!”
We’d been friends for many years, but with life getting in the way and all, we don’t get to see each other very often. I told her what I was doing and asked her how she would feel about being interviewed about her profession. I was relieved that she didn’t get all weird and shy and happily agreed to me, getting all up in her business. I did the fat baby happy dance, while singing…
“I’m gonna get my mutha effin’ Oprah on.” 😀
…Which is something I want to do more of. (Get my Oprah on that is.) I’m fortunate to know more than my deserved share of extremely smart and talented professionals, so why the heck not use them as content in my blog. They certainly deserve more shine than my tiny little cyber page, in this big ole cyber universe. We were initially going to do a phone interview, but figured it would have been even better in person, so she came over to my house. We chilled and chatted like old friends do, creating the perfect atmosphere to discuss her career. I hope all of my future interviews go like this one did. I won’t say anymore about my story, cause I don’t want to give anything else away, but it’s gonna be good. (Rubs hands together and snickers in an evil tone.) 😀
I will however, get right into my interview, with my beautiful, talented and extremely humble friend, Josette Gilead a licensed mortician.
*Side Note*.. I kind of envision morticians looking like this picture below…
“So she go need fi tun dung di pretty, quite a bit.”
TJG: So,.. Mortician eh? ( laughing) 😀
JG: Yep. (laughing also) 😀
TJG: How long have you been in this field?
JG: Since 2000. The Mortuary Science course is 3 years, but I had already been a nurse for 4 years prior to that, so I went in already having certain credits. I only ended up having to do study 2 years. First and foremost, I consider myself to be a nurse and I am still registered.
TJG: How did you get into nursing? Were you good at the sciences in school, you know Biology, Chemistry, Physics?
JG: Honestly, I wasn’t particularly good at the Sciences in high school.. I passed my classes, but at the time, the interest was not there. (laughing) It was only years after. Nursing then seemed like a way, out of how I was feeling. I was extremely bored. I always respected the profession and thought it was important, I love people, so I thought it would be the perfect way to combine my helpful nature, into a profession that I had already revered.
TJG: You started and loved nursing. At any point did you consider becoming a doctor?
JG: Well,.. nursing was about 3 years. You worked , building up your resume and studied simultaneously. I decided to specialize in midwifery and to be honest, it was quite gruesome. I probably delivered over 100 children, and a week before the exam, I told my tutor, I just couldn’t do it. She tried to get me to reconsider, but I’d already made up my mind. Even though I was a nurse, there were just some aspects of the profession, that were a bit much. As I was already employed at the hospital, I continued to practice nursing for maybe another year.
TJG: Why Mortuary Science though? It’s a helluva shift.
JG: Honestly, I got bored again. I woke up one day and told my parents that I was considering getting into it, and they had absolutely no idea what I was going on about. When I explained to them what it was, they thought I was crazy. (laughing)
I did some online research, checking for the top schools in the field, and “The American McAllister Institute of Funeral Service” in New York, kept coming up. It was the most highly accredited school in Mortuary Science, so I wrote to them to find out what I needed to apply. I then started to save towards it. I only saved enough for the first semester, but I figured I’d cross the other bridges when I got to them. To me at that point, being accepted was the biggest hurdle, which I was successful in doing. I suspect I was a little naive. When I got there, I had a really difficult time where I was living and I had to move, but all of those struggles made me work even harder, cause I was determined not to fail. My mom at that time was a tourist vendor in Antigua and while at work, a chance meeting with a man she’d met on Blue Waters Beach, ended up changing my life. She had no idea who it was, but she was talking to him about her daughter (ME), telling him where I was and what I was studying in school. Turns out his name was Sir. Anthony Warburton. I get chills when I think about it. The thing is, Mr. Warburton owned over 60 funeral homes and over 10 crematoriums in the UK, and thought it was wonderful that I had been off doing my studies in his field. My mother gave him my contact information and we started corresponding immediately. He sent for me to come to England, in hopes of me coming to work for him after I completed my studies. In the end. Mr. Warburton, paid the balance of my tuition. Remember, I had no idea how I was going to pay for it, after the first semester, as that was all the money I was able to save.
TJG: Wow!.. Talk about divine intervention.
JG: I know right? 😀 After I completed my studies, I went to Bridlington in North Yorkshire, and worked a funeral home he’d purchased called Earnest Bringham’s Funeral Home. I stayed for nearly 1.5 years, did my crematory studies, then came back to Antigua.
TJG: Why? Were you homesick?
JG: Very!…. Funny thing is though..when I came back, I couldn’t get a job. I decided to apply throughout the region, instead of waiting for something to come up, and I received a response from a gentleman out of St. Thomas. His name was Mr.Davis, and he has a funeral home in St. Thomas and one in Tortola. He came to Antigua and interviewed me, and I was immediately hired. I agreed to meet him in Tortola, but was sent back by immigration because of my dreads. This was around 2004. He asked me to meet him in St.Thomas, which I did, then put a wig on my head and took the ferry to Tortola. 😀 Fortunately, the law was changing around that time, but prior to that, unless you were born in St.Thomas, Tortola, Virgin Gorda or Jost Van Dyke, no Rastafarian or person with dreads, could enter Tortola.
TJG: I did not know that. This is actually pretty shocking!Wow!
JG: It sounds strange, but it’s very true. Eventually I was able to take my wig off, because the law did change while I was there. I worked there for about 3 years, actually briefly going back into nursing at Peebles Hospital in Tortola, before returning to Antigua.
TJG: Did you have a job offer back here?
JG: No. I was homesick. I was actually out of work again for a while. I think I wasn’t working for close to a year., then I got a job at Crossroads Rehabilitation Center in addictive nursing.
… it was a really great experience. While working there, I learned that A.U.A … American University of Antigua, needed a part-time morgue assistant and I applied and was hired. I did both jobs. I started there in June of 2008 and became full-time in June of 2009, when their senior morgue attendant passed away. That was when I left Crossroads.
TJG: In the beginning, you said that your parents questioned your sanity a bit in regards to getting into your profession. Honestly, I myself can understand their thinking, as it is quite a morbid to me. I’ll use the word gruesome, which funnily is the word you used to describe your time as a mid-wife. (laughs) 😀 What type of person would you describe yourself to be? Do you have to a specific type of character, to enter into this profession. I don’t remember you acting like Wednesday Addams
JG: Honestly, I am a very straight forward person and I feel as though I was made for this. In a way, it’s as if the profession chose me, instead of the other way around. I didn’t have to adapt or get used to it. I never had bad dreams, was never scared, which is what most people think would be drawbacks to being in this field. It felt like a natural step to take, because of my background in nursing, trying to help people, specializing in midwifery. It felt like a full circle.
TJG: Literally from the womb to the tomb. lol 😀
JG: I look at it this way, if I could not help you in life, I’ll do my best to give you as peaceful and as respectable a send off that I can. …Though working for the medical school, is a different aspect of death, than working in a funeral home, where people are being prepared for burial. I work with cadavers, that are being prepared for dissection, in aid of medical research.
TJG: How do your tasks vary between the funeral home and the medical school?
JG: When working for a funeral home, I wash, sanitize, embalm, dress, sometimes I may have to do restoration, depending on if physical trauma caused disfiguration to the body and cosmetize. Working for the University, I handle the bodies post embalming, though I still have to wash , sanitize and prepare for dissection, for study in the anatomy department.
TJG: Have you ever gotten emotional in any situation regarding a corpse?
JG: Not really, but when I see older bodies, I think about my parents and the inevitable.
TJG: Are you a person of faith?
JG: Yes. Very much so.
TJG: How does faith and your profession mix?
JG: If I didn’t believe in God, I think I would be more fearful of death. I think I have more faith now than before.
TJG: For the most part, these are people who you don’t know, or even know someone who knows them, so I can understand the ability to separate your self from your emotions and do your job. But has there ever been a situation, where you knew the person when they were alive?
JG: Yes, actually I have. People think that folks in this profession some how have been able to harden their hearts and not feel. I am affected, but I have a job to do, so I try to see beyond what’s in front of me. The spirit of the person is no longer there, so it is easier, not easy, but easier to get through my tasks, thinking that way.
TJG: Have you ever refused to work on a body because of something you may deem as an outrageous circumstance?
TJG: Are you fearful of death?
JG: Not for myself, but for my loved ones, as I will be left back to deal with the loss.
TJG: How does this profession affect your social life, specifically dating life? I can only imagine that you limit yourself in the ‘guess what happened at work today’ conversations when out and about..lol, but has this profession prevented you from making decent connections with the opposite sex.
JG: (laughing out loud). Most men are afraid of me. 😀 They think that If I can work with dead bodies, I can kill them and not even flinch, so they usually keep it moving when I tell them what I do for a living. It ‘s a weeding out process. The right person for me will stick around, whether or not my job creeps them out.
TJG: Are there a lot of women in this profession, or trying to get into this profession?
JG: It’s getting better. Before there were hardly any women. In the U.S, I met quite a few women at school, studying to enter the field, and black women as well. It was very encouraging.
TJG: How do you see your career in the future?
JG: I want to own my own funeral home. It’s been a dream of mine for a few years.
TJG: I never thought I’d ever hear those words, come out of the mouth, of one of my friends. 😀 lol.. Do you have nay advice for anyone, who is thinking that this is a career avenue they’d want to explore?
JG: Funeral service is not a field one casually studies. It is a very serious profession, for many reasons. I think it comes to you naturally, or at least it should. Don’t let your perception of what it may bring, financially or otherwise, be the catalyst for exploration of the profession. Think about the bigger picture, and how many lives are affected by it. Make sure that you have a genuine love for it. If it is truly what you feel is your calling, you will be rewarded on every level, in every aspect.