"I've passion for this; I feel like it’s an honour" – 19-year-old female mortuary worker

A 19-year-old female mortuary worker has disclosed that she deems it an honour to be the one to attend to dead bodies for the last time before they are buried.

Aaliya Campbell, 19=year-old mortician

Aaliya Campbell, told Jamaica Observer West that the thought of becoming a mortician crossed her mind at age 13, while she was a grade 9 student at the Mount Alvernia High School in St James, Jamaica.

"I heard the term (mortician) somewhere, but the memory is a bit vague…I just remember saying that I am going to try this. I don’t think that’s normal because nobody just gets up and says they are going to pursue a career in funeral service, but I did," the teenager said.

Her mother, who was very much aware of her daughter’s love for mortuary work, helped her get a voluntary service at the Delapenha Funeral Home in Montego Bay for one month.

"I didn’t have a career path at the time, so I was exploring and that drew my interest. I told my mom about It, and she got me the opportunity to do voluntary service at the funeral home that I am working at now," Campbell revealed in the interview.

She was so determined to do the job that not even the scary and traumatic first experience at the mortuary could make her change her mind.

"I had never seen a dead body a day in my life, but when I came, I wasn’t scared. I was determined to give this a shot, so I was helping to embalm a body…everything went fine. But once I got home that evening, I was alone and I was so traumatized.

"Cold sweat washed me and everybody that I saw that day replayed in my head. I could not sleep, I was screaming. It was a disaster and I had to call a friend to calm me down," she recounted.

Regardless of the ordeal, Campbell pursued her dream of becoming a mortician. S mustered courage and finished up the voluntary service.

"I just made up my mind that this is what I’m going to do, and I grew to love it. I went back and I wasn’t scared. After that incident, nothing like that ever happened again."

After the voluntary service, Campbell’s passion for the job grew further, and she went on to pursue an associate degree in funeral service and mortuary science at the Montego Bay Community College (MBCC).

"I absolutely love it so much. In grades 10 and 11, I didn’t really come (go to the funeral home) very often because I was focusing on my school-based assessments (SBA) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) [exams], but I would stop by.

"After I graduated, I didn’t see myself doing anything else. I was 16 when I graduated high school and I started the course at the same time.

"I really have a passion for this. I just feel like it is an honour to take care of someone’s loved one for the last time. My favourite part is embalming because with that process we bring back life to them basically," she disclosed.

Currently, although she intends to venture into other career ventures, she renders funeral services and visits the mortuary to assist when she is called upon, or when she misses attending to dead bodies.

"I only visit the morgue if I choose to. So, if I feel like it has been a while since I’ve embalmed a body then I’ll go and help. I do funerals, obituaries, and death notices…so I assist the drivers and the family with anything that they need.

"I have never thought of owning a funeral home. I don’t know why, but I don’t have an interest in that. But I would consider owning a crematorium a funeral supply shop because there are not many of them in Jamaica."

Fortunately, she has the support of her family for the career she has chosen. They just can’t fathom why she is able to deal with corpses but scared of little rodents.

"Sometimes they’ll make fun of me because I am afraid of rodents and cockroaches. So, they’re like, Aaliyah, how do you embalm people and you are afraid of a rat? That makes no sense. But a rat is alive and will do me something. The dead cannot do me anything."

Well, in Ghana and other parts of Africa, mortuary workers face a lot of stigmatisation and are not welcomed into some families to marry their relatives.


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