Dealing Compassion When Life Deals Death: An Interview with Mortuary Student Keri Garcia
“It takes a village” to raise a child, but it also takes a village to bury somebody, and to help their loved ones face the grief that loss brings. While some roles within the village get lots of attention (think minister or friends), other roles are overlooked. And yet, the people who occupy those places are often the unsung heros of what can be the most trying time in someone’s life.
Keri Garcia, a mortuary student in Florida, is one of those unsung heroes. The full-time hairdresser/barber also spends part of each week learning how to care for the deceased at mortuary school, and part of her week putting what she has learned into practice at a funeral home.
And what she is learning is that the proper handling of a body goes beyond the practical decisions regarding how best to prepare the body for burial or cremation.
Families, she says, also need something more intangible: Respect.
“I handle each loved one’s body with the utmost respect,” she says. “I handle them as I would my own loved one.”
Keri’s compassionate handling of the deceased means she gives families the gift of knowing that their loved one will be treated as a cherished individual.
“The most rewarding part about mortuary school is when a family thanks you,” she says. “While they are going through the most difficult time in their life, being able to relieve as much stress as possible for them, and to able to reassure them that their loved one will be taken care of.”
Working with the deceased has also given Keri a fresh perspective on her own life.
“I have learned from working part time in a funeral home, that my problems that I have going on at home are nowhere near as big as the problems that these families are facing at this current moment,” she says.
While mortuary school and working at the funeral home have their challenges (Keri must separate her work and home life emotionally, for instance), it is worth it to her to have the chance to give families closure and peace during a difficult time. And that desire to make life easier for grieving families is what makes Keri and the others in her profession such valuable members in the village of grief.
Keri is Mortuary Science Major graduating this year. Her part-time work in a funeral home gives her the opportunity to comfort and support grieving families by caring for their deceased loved ones. She balances her mortuary work with a full time job as hairdresser barber. She has been married for 17 years and has 2 children.