For this final part of the series, I’d like to have a look at some of the weirder things that happen at the mortuary which people might find unsavoury or a little unsettling in some ways. By that I mean things you might not expect or things you definitely wouldn’t expect.
The big first one I’m going to explore is the paranormal. The inexplicable or the just plain odd. Every mortuary worker has their own opinion on this, some like to keep it private and I think I lean towards that stance but this was also important to mention. We have a set of automatic doors at the end of our fridge room which open when you approach them into the corridor which runs around the perimeter of the mortuary. Sometimes, and fairly regularly, they will open when no one is near them. We joke that we have a resident ghost who we’ve affectionately called Maureen for a while. I can’t remember where that originated or which team member first used it but it has stuck. Some of the team believe in some form of life after death, others don’t and some sit on the fence. We all acknowledge Maureen in our own way even if just thinking it’s a pair of over sensitive door sensors!
As part of the post mortem process we often take samples which are sent out externally to be examined elsewhere. Occasionally this can include whole organs such a hearts and brains which will go to specialist institutions. If the next of kin would like them to be reunited with their deceased, as opposed to being disposed of or kept for research, then they will come back to us. I remember vividly when a colleague had first started and we received a box which they got excited about opening thinking it was stationery, until I told them it was a brain and they carefully put the box down in shock. Recently we have had a huge box of prepared specimens delivered to be looked after for study examples, an array of different parts of the body. This all seems very normal to us but I imagine very odd to anyone outside of our work!
Finally, and last in this series for now, are the various smells. Everyone assumes that a mortuary smells bad. They don’t know how or why, but they always walk in and assume it does. Those who know, understand that sometimes there’s bad smells but a mortuary should not smell bad all the time. I quite quickly discovered that the smell which threw me the most was just the smell of refrigeration. The smell inside our fridges is often the smell of a kitchen fridge and that is strange. I did go through a period where I also used the same shampoo as the one that we use on the deceased, Alberto Balsam Apple scent if you’re interested, and I had to stop because it reminded me too much of work. Smell association is unsettling, when smells elsewhere remind you of things at work in the mortuary. Bin day was always a noticeable one, in the summertime I have cycled behind the bin lorry which smells like decomposition and you don’t have to be told what that reminds me of.
That brings this series to a close, I hope that it’s been an interesting insight into mortuary life. If you have any ideas or suggestions for any future posts please comment below or get in touch via my contact page.