Maybe it’s fate that brought me to meet with this lady undertaker for 8 years now, Ms. Jackie Chua, a single mother of 3 children. An undertaker job is to prepare the deceased for burial or cremation and making arrangements for funerals. No,not WWE wrestler The Undertaker. They are also called a mortician or a funeral director/manager. It’s not a fancy job. And sometimes it can become extremely challenging as some deceased, unfortunately, died in a horrific way. Many work have to be done to preserve the deceased and to prepare them to be presentable for the funeral, so that family and loved one are at ease during the funeral mass. Their job is also to make sure family and guests are comfortable as they are mostly sadden by the death of love ones. This job is personal. Every person is a different case. This is a service industry that deals with many type of people,from different background,religion and ethnic. To be good at this work,she must always update her knowledge on medic and culture studies. She told me ” You must have a heart(passion and compassionate) and a strong will to do this because if you don’t, you can’t do this at all. Just like you a photographer. You must love your work”. Yes i do. I’m doing this long going personal project of mine, to share my personal view on this often misunderstood profession. I want to show how this “gruesome” and “dirty” profession(as describe by the conservative) is a nobel profession.
“Health is very important. You can get your money back but not health” – Ms. Jackie Chua
I met her at my beloved aunt’s funeral. My aunt lost her battle to cancer. Not because she gave up. Only because the fight is over and her time has come. I’ll never forget how brave and determine she fought her cancer all this years. Even in suffer and pain,she still has positive attitude with a smile on her face. I wonder if i’ll ever be strong like her to go thru that. To dear beloved aunt Amy Yap,I love you and miss you so much. When my aunt departed,none of us know what to do. None of us were doctors or morticians to care for my late aunt nor we are craftsman to build a coffin. In a normal daily life, for some,a taboo subject, would never want to walk pass thru a casket store, but in the end of the day when you can’t care for yourself anymore, these are the people you depend on.
Ms. Jackie Chua, the lady undertaker.
Her newspaper interview few years ago. Telling her side of the story and informations to share with the public.
All kinds of coffin, colors and sizes to choose at the shop.
Urns and clothing for the deceased
One’s last bed.
The music band you don’t want to have.
The Band with no fans.
The band doing their responsibility to play the last song for the deceased.
This is Jaya from Myanmar and Mansom from Bangladesh.They are the funeral service operator.
Cleaning up after the funeral mass is over.
To the crematory.
Its a hard day job,but its a responsibility to make sure all are taken care of.
“Why do you do this work? Its dirty.”
“It’s scary and disgusting”
“You could bring negativity and bad luck to others”
“Wow,it’s a good business! You must be rich!”
“This job is unhealthy”
These are the common reaction they get from other people who don’t understand the nobility of this job. The subject and topic of death is still a taboo in asian culture. Often, people think that deaths is a bad thing and always relate to one’s bad luck and to be avoided if possible. Some may have this ‘pantang’ (avoidance) and rituals to prevent bad luck. Some also believe that one should not go to a wedding after they attended a funeral. It is said that to bring bad vibe for the newly wed couple. But that is the old conservative way, today’s younger generation might be a bit open minded towards this subject. Life and Death is a cycle that no one can really tell why,how,when and who. “Even my mother didn’t like what i do. She’s a very traditional person. But i needed at job at that time to pay my bills,rentals and loans. It happen that a friend brought me in to this field, so that i can support my living and children. I was worried and scared at first but now is a passion and i must be professional when at work. It takes a lot of training and experience to be good.” She explain how she got this job. Maybe it was fate that chooses her for this task? This profession is not for the weak hearted. Time is very precious as they are on 24hours on call and its unpredictable. “I would not go to visit someone that is ill. Because we live in a judgmental society, if that person dies,they might put the blame on me. Its best to avoid such accusation.I couldn’t control other people mouth”she explained.Sad but true.
Respect is to be earn. I agree. And these group of people have my respect and appreciation. They care for those who couldn’t care for themselves anymore and at their most vulnerable moment. That is why, to me,this is a noble profession.Not many can handle this responsibility. “I wouldn’t care less how others think of my work. I am also a human being making a honest living,paying my bills and stuff. I am not afraid.”She says with determination in her eyes. One day it could be you end up on a cold metal table in a morgue and at the mercy of the undertaker. So be wary on how you treat others cause Karma is a Bitch. Don’t be disrespectful to others only because you don’t understand it. Open up and learn.
“You’ll never really know a person until they are dead. Only when dead,one’s secret life is reveal and the true color of the people around the deceased is shown ” – Ms. Jackie Chua.
#TSBreakAway & Canon Photo Storytelling Challenge.