Undressing With The Lights On


May 7, 2014
Undressing With The Lights On “So,” she said, with a disturbingly frisky look in her eye, “does your job mean you’ll get to see me naked?”

“God, I hope not,” I replied, with what was perhaps un-gentlemanly haste. Indeed, if hurt expressions were fine art, the one I got back from her would’ve found its way straight into the National Portrait Gallery. Whoever said the truth never hurt anyone needs to be taken to a secluded place and shot.

But fair’s fair, the female in question really didn’t have the kind of face that would’ve launched a thousand ships, despite having a figure like a cross channel ferry. (“Roll-on, roll-off” springs to mind). The day drop-dead gorgeous looks were handed out I reckon she’d been stuck in traffic at Dover. History will record that her true vocation would’ve lain in modelling burkhas.

Amongst the many hidden things morticians are party to, naked human bodies are unfortunately chief among them. There’s a brief moment (we always try to make it as brief as possible) between removal of the hospital-issue shroud and the re-dressing in whatever clothes the relatives have provided, when one is suddenly subjected to an intimate sight usually reserved only for the deceased’s husband/wife/partner/illicit internet lover.

So let me tell you now, when a doctor/nurse says “Don’t be shy, you haven’t got anything I haven’t seen a thousand times before” they’re not just saying that to be nice. There really is nothing even remotely titillating about seeing someone’s naked frame if you have to do it as part of your job. Especially not in my job.

Nevertheless, occasionally a client will ask, as a matter of principle, if we can ensure that their deceased female relative is prepared only by another female and we’ll gladly comply with such requests. But most folks are perfectly happy to entrust their loved one into the hands of seasoned professionals such as myself without any regard to our gender.

The only secret I will share is that if you’re one of those (living) people who constantly worries about their figure and how their wobbly bits are going south, then fear not! Once you’re dead your bits will only go a few centimetres east or west. But if it bothers you that much, then you’ll need to choose between either joining a gym and eating sawdust for the rest of your days, or else embracing life by arming yourself with one of two little-known truths:

 1) For women: remember, no-one will ever see your bingo wings or your thunder
     thighs in a coffin.
 2) For men: gravity and a wide fit coffin will go a long way to giving you the flat
      stomach you’ve always wanted.

When we’ve got past the naked bit and the deceased is once again dressed and made decent, there will often be a request for something to be done with their hair. Again, we have a capable female on-call for just such occasions, but my firm can also boast our own on-call gentlemen’s hairdresser too. (Hat tip to Tim Sysum). Tim mostly confines himself to a pre-mortem clientele. But a casual, joking remark he once made backfired on him when I requisitioned him to tidy up a deceased client: an army officer whose ill-health had prevented him getting a much-wanted hair cut.

Tim entered our mortuary very cautiously and only after I’d promised to stay with him the whole time.

I lied.

I disappeared to make a phone call and then hurried back again, only to find Tim completely engrossed in a one-way conversation with his latest customer. Judging by the way he was busily chattering away I could only assume that he and the deceased were getting on famously, so I left them both to it. Hair duly trimmed, we dressed the chap in the uniform his daughter had kept ready. For one last time we had him looking every inch the army officer. Mission accomplished. Except that Tim, who by that time had taken quite a liking to his new client, was most put out at the thought of all his handiwork being buried.

 

We got round the problem by telling him we’d add “Hair by Tim” to the coffin nameplate.



James Baker owns and runs Fred Stevens Funeral Directors of Nailsworth, Glos.
www.fredstevens.co.uk

He is the author of “A Life In Death – Memoirs Of A Cotswold Funeral Director”
www.amazon.co.uk

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