The first time I saw a dead body I must have been about 7 years old. Being short, I can still remember being almost eye level with the deceased; I remember the strangest things about that day. He was a man that I had never known or had seen before yet my great-aunt had somehow managed to get my parents to agree to my going to the "wake" with her on Saturday afternoon. He was a dark man if I remember correctly, he looked like he was plaster. What impressed me the most was the large amount of hair sticking out of his ears. I know it sounds funny today that I would remember such an odd thing considering this was the first corpse I had laid my eyes on but obviously at the time it must not have seemed right to me.
I can't remember the next dead person I saw because after the wonderful success of wake number one I became my aunt's partner in woe. It seemed as if every time one of her friends would depart from this world I was off on a day trip to some funeral home or another; I still have the stack of prayer cards wrapped in a dried out rubber band from all of the wakes I attended. It almost became a hobby to collect these cards which were like little souvenirs of my trips.
If someone had told me that later in life I would become one of those people who adorn the dead and make them a little more pleasant to look at I would have told them they were crazy. Yet, as time went on I learned the smell of rotting flowers, the sickly sweet smell of an embalmed body as well as my aunt's circle of friends. Some of the last of the wakes I attended with her were for people I had met at earlier wakes. I was networking when networking wasn't the catch phrase of the day.
The last dead body I saw was today, and I know I'll see another tomorrow. I still find it hard to believe that I do this day in and day out and have been around death all of my life. I don't think being exposed to death from such an early age helped me to decide to do this but I'm sure it didn't hurt. Was I trained from 7 years old how to handle myself around the bereaved? Could that be the actual reason why I do what I do with such ease? I'll never know. My aunt died several years ago but I have to thank her for the exposure which may have afforded me the opportunity to accept death and want to help those in need. Thanks aunt Vicky!