Tuesday, October 19, 2021

 

What I’ve Learned about Death Services

by Saralyn Richard


When I was a senior in high school, I had an English teacher who moonlighted as a mortician. I don’t remember much about the course curriculum, but I have vivid memories of his stories about dead bodies, sitting up while he worked on them. Mr. M., as I’ll call him, thrived on telling grotesque tales and watching our reactions.

            Aside from those stories, I can’t remember the topic of funerals coming up much. No one likes to talk about caskets or embalming fluid over lunch or on a date. In the few instances where I’ve been responsible for arranging funerals, I’ve worked with experienced people whose calm, tact, and caring attitude helped block out the grief, and I’ve never asked too many questions.

            Fast forward to the past several years, when I’ve been writing mysteries. Mysteries often have dead bodies. Dead bodies require death services. To get the details right, I began interviewing morticians, and I learned a lot.




                                                                           One of my sources, Jay Carnes of Carnes Funeral Home, Texas City, Texas

Here are a few salient facts:

1.          People who work in death services are people just like you and me. They have the same hopes and fears and dreads, the same olfactory sensibilities, the same tastes and distastes. They generally don’t engage in discussions about them, though. If you complain about a bad day at the office, they might sympathize, but they won’t tell you about theirs.
 
     When death is your business, and you’re around dead bodies every day, you become immune to the drama and/or horror that others may associate with corpses. You might even share inside jokes with colleagues, like, “Want to have a couple of cool ones from the fridge?” This kind of levity is never expressed in front of outsiders, though.
 
    There’s a tiny bit of guilt when business is good, like when we have a pandemic. Some of the joy of a robust end-of-year bottom line is mitigated by the fact that the income was derived from people’s hardships, sorrows, or tragedies.

 

                                        James J. Terry Funeral Home in Downington, PA, where Lee Walasavage has graciously answered my questions.

My upcoming release, BAD BLOOD SISTERS, centers around a woman who’s grown up in this business.

Quinn McFarland has grown up around dead bodies…

Quinn’s always joked about death, but this summer, death stops being funny. For one thing, her brother finally undergoes transplant surgery. For another, Quinn’s estranged BFF, her “blood” sister, is brought into the family mortuary, bludgeoned to death.

            Quinn’s haunted by the past, her friendship gone awry, and the blood oath she’s sworn to keep secret. The police consider her a person of interest, and someone threatens her not to talk. Quinn is the only one who knows enough to bring the killer to justice, but what she’s buried puts her in extreme danger.



Bad Blood Sisters
will be released March 9, 2022. My other mysteries, Murder in the One Percent, A Palette for Love and Murder, and A Murder of Principal can be found here. Sign up for my monthly newsletter with special offers, news, surveys, and more at http://saralynrichard.com

 

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the preview of your next book, Saralyn. Something to look forward to in 2022!

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    1. Thank you, Gay. 2022 will be here before we know it!

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  2. Saralyn, what a fascinating occupation you've given Quinn. Dead on!

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    1. Quinn is dating a surgeon, and they converse about how similar their jobs are. :)

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  3. Saralyn, in my twenties I was engaged to a mortician's son. I learned precisely what you said in your blog. So true. Can't wait to read.

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  4. Thanks for commenting, Donnell. Yes, somebody has to do that important job, and that somebody is a regular person, just like the rest of us.

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  5. Saralyn, an intriguing premise and Quinn sounds like an interesting character!

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    1. Many thanks, Mary Lee. I'm glad you like Quinn and her situation. :)

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  6. Saralyn,

    What an intriguing premise for a mystery. Quinn sounds like a fascinating character.

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    1. Music to my ears, Daniella. Quinn has fascinated me for a long time now! :)

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  7. Looking forward to March 9, 2022!

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