My brother and I live in two different worlds in relation to our careers. I chose to follow in my father’s footsteps and go into education while my brother chose to be a mortician. Near the end of a visit with family, my brother looked at me and said he would really appreciate help in getting the deceased placed in the casket. He knows that I am not fond of his work and was teasing me to see if he would get a reaction. I looked at him and said yes, let’s go. Even though I answered with a direct and confident voice, my brain was running the following scenarios at a rapid pace. 1) It is dark outside and really dark at the funeral home. 2) What if I get so worked up that I pass out and hit my head on something as I fall? 3) Are you nuts? 4) Way to go trying to be Mr. Macho in front of your family, I hope you don’t regret this. 5) What excuse can I use to change my mind?
As we drove to the funeral home, my mind seemed to settle a bit. We arrived and entered the funeral home which had a very peaceful and professional atmosphere. I walked through the room where caskets are displayed for viewing by families and immediately noticed a picture of my grandmother that was part of the decorative corners of her casket from several years ago. Seeing my grandmother also gave me an added sense of calmness and helped to eliminate the fears that had been racing in my head.
I helped my brother as he had asked and immediately understood what he had been telling me for years about how he is in this business to help others. Knowing that I had been able to help someone be positioned in their final resting place gave me a sense of compassion, respect, and understanding that someday I would be needing this very same help. I noticed the saying that was on the wall which read, “Memento Mori”. (which means “remember that you have to die”) My brother explained that this was a Latin term from medieval Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality. He said the words were there to remind them that they need to do their work on the deceased as they would prefer the work done to them when they die.
As I reflect on my experience in the mortuary, I can’t help but think that we as educators should reflect on the fact that we once were students. Reflecting on this can help us to always keep the focus on doing our work with the best interest of our students in mind. Maybe all of our roles at work are to simply, “help others”? Our community of 1,800 people is filled with helpers. Whether that involves the people working on Main Street, in healthcare, morticians, farmers, the list goes on and on. Whatever profession you practice, I hope that you are able to experience the joy of “helping others”.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Martin Luther King Jr.