Tour of the Morgue and Free Food: Brings back childhood mems.

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.

Busiest Job: College student studying journalism, writing and death.

Again, it’s been a while. Keeping up with a blog on top of writing a 10+ page report and reorganizing for the semester gets in the way sometimes.

Also, my class took a field trip to Mountain View Mortuary last Thursday and took a tour of the funeral home. The morticians were very kind and professional. I wish I had questions to ask but I didn’t since I already knew most of the process of working at one. When will I get to those stories? Hopefully quite soon. I am compiling a list of goals I want to complete within the next two months!

However, I completed and (overly) passed my Death and Dying class with a 100.40 percent. Today, I just started the semester and learned quite a few things already: I learned how to fully stalk a source (investigative reporting) and, there’s a little bit of nepotism and bias within the student publications at my university. I gained the experience of working with that was like with one of those publications, and I would like to share that experience with you and tips on how to handle it. Right now, it’s a struggle for me to write it because it was such a frustrating experience that I didn’t end on good terms with. But I’m going to be working on this and hopefully post it next week, without bashing on the people or the publication (because I really don’t believe in doing that, no matter how angry they made me).

Anyway, thanks for sticking with me through the boring parts. I think I figure out some good times when to post now that I have more breaks in my schedule. What’s also going on this week is that I will be starting my writing and reporting on Nevada State Legislature’s 77th session! I have a meeting to attend this Wednesday and a field trip for an orientation on Friday in Carson City. Possibly, a good friend of mine who recently moved might be able to come visit me this weekend.

I’m a big “sorry pants”, so here is another apology of mine for being so late with things. Now that everything is on a definite schedule, I think I’m confident to post more than I used to these last few weeks. In fact, I’ll share my experience about my field trip to the mortuary later today!

-Molly

P.S. Did you hear that February 3rd is going to be a Super Harbowl? I’m very excited, but I don’t know who to cheer for. Colin Kaepernick is just amazing and he was on my university’s football team (I didn’t really become a 49ers fan until Kaepernick took the quarterback position). I like the Baltimore Ravens because my family likes them and I think they’re really good, too. I’ll be honest, I think I’ll be happy with whoever wins. This is gonna be interesting!

A Buffet and My Dead Body

I’m so sorry for not keeping up this week! What a disappointment. It gets a little hard controlling certain priorities when you’re planning your funeral, writing your obituary and living will. During work hours, I’m also afraid to bring my computer back because I don’t want some old lady smacking the top of it with a brochure, telling me to pay attention.

It also gets difficult when you have to get up at 7:40 a.m. every morning (for a college student) and take a midterm in the middle of the week about death. Coming up next is a 10 – 15 research paper (luckily, I’m at 6 pages right now).

Oh, and you know when life is hard when you cut yourself with a cooking knife while dicing red peppers for meatloaf (wonderful recipe for it here — check it out!).

Speaking of meatloaf, I’ve actually had time to plan out my funeral, have I told you that already? Right…

If I die between now and the next 10 years (or 20, I guess), I want food at my funeral. LOTS of food.

In fact, make it a buffet. The food should arrange to pasta and Italian dishes to comfort food like avocado, cheese and veggie sandwiches, tomato bisque and hummus dip. I want everybody to stuff their faces and enjoy the food (because I sure as hell would!). Maybe a mixture of dishes from my mother’s homemade recipe and my favorite restaurant in Reno, Süp.

Drinks should be a variety of sodas, wines and water. And put a dark chocolate fountain on a different table next to my urn (yes, I want cremation please).

Although it may seem impossible, I don’t want everybody mourning at the time of my death. Maybe for like an hour to say their words and memories and shit but seriously, just go eat some food. Somebody should bring a live rock band to perform. Then, play some recordings of some sick Steve Vai solos and switch it to Opera. Provide a game console and play video games. Do some of the comforting things that I used to enjoy.

After the memorial, I want 7 grams of my remains to be shot up into space and a good amount along the coast of Maldives. For the remaining ashes, feel free to do whatever – put me on a shelf for years, put me in your necklace, use me as ink for your tattoo (I’m doubt I’m that special)…whatever.

But if I were to die between now and the next 10 years, what would the cause be? From a gun shot? From a vehicle accident? From choking? From the stupidity of today’s society?

Whatever happens, happens. Sometimes I feel like I don’t care when and then there are some days that I do.

Anyway, congrats to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers for their win tonight!

Again, sorry about the lateness of this post, but I will be sure to shoot more next week!

-Molly

First day of Death…….education.

Here is how my last day of 2012 went: 

I woke up this morning from a wonderful, 10-hour sleep on my new Sealy mattress that my best friend Royal bought me for Christmas. I was so well rested that I forgot the reason why I set my alarm to 7:45 a.m.

I made myself two cups of coffee and then packed my bag with loose-leaf paper, writing utensils and my Kindle Fire which had my e-textbook inside.

Today was the first day of death and dying school! 

I’m taking this mini winter class to fulfill my capstone and diversity requirement, and, you know, taking it for the obvious reason: my obsession with the science behind death.

This is technically a course for a Social Work major. When I first signed up, I was a little nervous about it because I thought the entire course would mainly be about how to comfort someone. That’s cool and all but I want something beyond that — and I got it!

The syllabus says that we’ll be learning about how death is handled with various cultures such as Native American, Asian and Hawaiian including religions like Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity.

Along with those topics, we’re going to plan our own funeral and learn about the business of it and so much more! A mortician will even come speak to the class! What a fantastic way to end 2012 and to start 2013.

Surprisingly, there are about 20 or more students in the class. It’s a diverse audience as well; most of them are majoring either in social work, psychology, biology or nursing (guess whose the only journalism major in there?).

The first half of the day mostly consisted of an introduction (this class is four hours btw). We had to pick a partner to get to know each other and then they would have to introduce us to the class (I hate a lot of things about this. I’d rather introduce myself because its way easier and you’ll get to know me personally compared to a person just telling the audience something about you. Also, I hate group activities.).

The interview questions were basic (to the eyes of a journalist, anyway): What’s your major, why did you choose this class, what do you hope to get out of it and list something that people wouldn’t know about you.

A pretty cool chick named Taylor and I partnered up and here’s what I told her:

I’m Molly and I’m a journalism major. I chose this class because I have a fascination with death and I also have background experience with funeral homes (I’ve witnessed an embalming and prepared bodies for funerals). I hope to get enjoyment out of this class especially since we’ll be learning about different cultures (I love this!). Something that people may not know about me is that I have a fascination with astronomy and space, and I hope to be the first journalist to report from space (this is true). 

And so when she introduced me with all of that to the class, I received so much attention that it became awkward. All eyes were on me. I was too shy to look up at anyone and acknowledge them (even the instructor!) and I cringed as if I were a turtle going back into its shell.

I HAVE NEVER GOTTEN SO MANY “OOOOHS!” AND “AHHHS!” BEFORE FOR AN “ABOUT ME”. 

And who was Taylor? A junior who can’t make up her mind with what major she wanted to pursue and is looking forward to learn how to comfort others during times of loss. Maybe I should have been more simple? But, then again, a girl admitted in her “about me” that she owns a baby monkey

…what is she going to do when that thing turns its back on her for the wild side? Hopefully the attack won’t be her cause of death. Ha. Ha. Speaking of…

We also took like, three surveys about our thoughts on death. The longest one was 74 questions asking things like, “Would you want to know how much time you have left to live?”, “How would you want to die?”, “If you were to commit suicide, what technique would you use?”, and “If you had a terminal illness, who would you want to tell you first?” 

What’s even more depressing is that there’s a 10 page paper due on the last day of class (a.k.a. in two weeks).

Anyways, I’m very excited about this class and I’ll share the most interesting things (why not all?). And I know, I need to share some of my experiences! How about I post something like that during this week?

Well, Happy New Year. So far, it’s a great start. I have an internship interview in April for The Sparks Tribune.

Celebrate safe and well and see you later this week! I’ll be shooting fireworks off by a lake.

-Molly

P DOT S: Please check out this amazing, clever and easy eggless cookie dough recipe from Fun Foods On a Budget! I made it like, three times and it makes you yell “LIFE IS GOOD!” in the kitchen because it’s that delicious. And no, pregnancy is not required.