Remember back in elementary and high school you would take field trips that were out of town or state? Even going to a local museum was a treat.
One of my most memorable field trips in my primary schooling years is when I went fishing in Tahoe for a day in second grade. I accidentally smacked my fishing pole on my teacher’s cheek; I wanted to ask her something, and I happen to bring the fishing pole with me as I turned around. She blew up a fume about it. After that, I silently sat in a little corner, crying as I was fishing by myself…
Okay, that wasn’t really memorable in a good way.
I also remember going to the San Francisco Aquarium in fourth grade (that was one whole day, from Fallon to there and back!). During that trip, we also went to this beach that we could touch all the sea sponges and shells. That day was the first day I used my under water camera, and during that time, I felt like I was the best photographer in the world.
And for my sixth grade graduation, we went to Six Flag in Vallejo (back when it was Marine World). And since then, I’ve been going back to Vallejo and Six Flags (now Discovery Kingdom) and San Francisco for high school choir trips and sports, summer vacations, and now college football games. As much as I hated getting up at sunrise (like any other kid or young adult would) it usually turned out to be worth it.
Going out of town or even just around town to tour local museums for class trips is a blast, too. But you don’t really expect that to happen during college, unless it’s an individual assignment or for studying abroad. I guess I could say that I got lucky (and oddly, excited) when my Death, Dying and Bereavement professor announced that the class would take a field trip to Mountain View Mortuary.
As you already might (somewhat) know, I worked in a mortuary right after I graduated from high school. So I sort of already know how the process goes when working in a mortuary (you pick up the body, put it on the gurney, take it to the mortuary, put it in the freezer, dress it up, conduct the funeral, and either a burial or cremation is done. It’s that easy!).
I was incredibly excited to participate in this activity anyways because one, I love death science, two, I haven’t been on a field trip for years and three, I’ve always wanted to nose around in one of Reno’s mortuaries.
Now when we, as the class, all met up and sat in the pews of the big room, everybody was prepared with their questions. How long does it take for a body to decompose? Do you have to go to beauty school, too? When do mortuaries usually close?
In a way, I was thinking that this might be no fun after all since I know the basics. Can we get on with the tour?
One of the three morticians had been working in mortuary science for over 30 years AND he’s an embalmer (I wish I could remember his name!). One was a female, named Emily (?), whose been in the business for two years and then Richard, who just began his career there. All three of them gave us a tour and were very kind and professional people. I think they’re definitely the perfect example for people who think they want to be involved with the business of death because they tell it like it is.
Emily said that she tends to cry with the families who are planning a funeral for a loved one. It’s comforting that way as well since you’re connecting with the family. She said that the worst death in her opinion are suicides because families are left to a mystery that will never be unsolved of why they killed themselves.
Richard said he thinks the worst death is cancer, since he watched his mother die from it. And the embalmer thinks all deaths are tough.
They gave us a tour of the casket and urn shopping rooms. Everybody was in awe when they touched the comforters and pillows inside the caskets. “Look how comfy they are!”
I was a little tempted to hop into one and test it out, as if I were shopping for a new mattress.
One of my classmates is a veteran, and she jumped when she saw the display room of a casket for a solider.
“Don’t be scared,” Richard reassured her. “It’s very peaceful here.”
“Not that room,” she replied. She immediately walked to the other side of the shop after that. It was too disturbing.
After taking a look at the viewing rooms (which wasn’t anything too special), the embalmer then said to us, “We usually don’t do this for classroom tours but we’re going to show you the prep room since it’s a good day to do it,”
(Good day as in, there are no booking or conducting funerals and no one has died yet).
I was quite impressed when he showed us the prep room. The mortuary I worked in was much smaller and cramped in. It was chilly enough for goosebumps to form onto your skin, like how a mortuary prep room should be.
It was plain looking lab, no bodies present. The freezer was in the room as well and one classmate asked if we could see a body but obviously, for legality and family respect’s sake, we couldn’t (I found this to be an oblivious question…I can just imagine her poking the body and scream after she realizes what it really is).
It’s obvious that people die every day and any time, but I was curious to see what these guys’ busiest hours were. In response to my question, the embalmer said between 5 and 6p.m. are usually the busiest.
Oh, here’s the best part; after the tour, the mortuary gave us free pizza and lemonade. We also got to stick around to ask more questions about the business in death, but I was enjoying the pizza a little too much.
Even though Mountain View Mortuary doesn’t offer any internships, job shadowing or volunteer work (huge bummer), it was still the best field trip I had in a while. You don’t go around often during good times in your life saying that you visited a mortuary for curiosity.