Anne, 30 years old, thanatoprateure. The young woman is one of the 700 qualified professionals exercising this unique activity in France, accessible to all after the baccalaureate. Full-time employee since last March in a funeral services company, she prepares the bodies of four to six deceased per day. Winter is usually a busy time. With the health crisis, Anne goes on for hours …
With her biotechnology engineering degree in hand, Anne realizes her misguided orientation. For two years, lost, she does odd jobs. It is while walking with friends in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris on a beautiful autumn day that she finds her way. Amidst the deceased, the 27-year-old feels strangely calm and serene. While browsing the Net in search of a profession "in the funeral", she comes across the profession of embalmer … Who excites her!
“This job suits me perfectly”
I was at a time in my life where I needed meaning. Meticulous, I was also looking for a manual, precision profession that calls for scientific knowledge. In high school, I loved dissections! Working in contact with the deceased did not scare me. I have a lot more trouble with the suffering of the living. Before I started, I did an observation internship with an thanatoprateur, contacted on Facebook … on my birthday. If that's not a sign! It was the first time I had faced a deceased, an old lady whose cold, rigid contact unsettled me a little at first. I was especially impressed by the work of Elodie, who later became my internship supervisor. I wanted to master his technique. Two weeks later, I started my three months of theoretical lessons at the Paris school. You learn anatomy, forensic medicine, the theory of thanathopraxy… The competition is quite selective. Fortunately, thanks to my studies in biology, I was on familiar ground. Then there is the practice on “real” deceased. A minimum of 100 treatments are needed to validate the internship and pass the exam. To be successful, you must not be too sentimental. When I prepare a body, I don't think about the person, I am entirely about what I do. 1h30, it goes very quickly!
"I think first of the result I want to give"
When I am facing the body, I only know of the deceased his identity, very rarely the cause of his death. It is the funeral agent who gives me directions to the family, whom I rarely see. It reassures me that I would hate to be in touch with their grief. With experience, by observing the body, I can deduce certain pathologies. After opening the body bag, I start by observing the condition of the body and skin, before relaxing the limbs. The bodies leaving the hospital are often tired and damaged by the treatments. The elderly, whose skin is more fragile, also require a lot of attention. My mission is to restore a calm air to the deceased, and his personality. After the conservation treatment, which consists of injecting a water-based and formalin-based fluid through the carotid artery at the base of the neck, I begin to wash the face and body. I try, thanks to the foundation, to give it a more natural complexion, to restore color to the mouth. Sometimes I find the lady's makeup bag, with the family's instructions. I can also cut the man's hair, trim his beard. One day, the children of an old man, who let himself go, thanked me: they had found their "old daddy"! If the deceased has no family, I apply just as much. I make sure he looks good one last time, for him, me, the funeral agent, the transporter …
“Some requests may surprise me”
When it comes to clothing, it's sometimes the big gap: from simple pajamas, nightgowns or jogging (common among the elderly!) To the evening dress. Some even wear a T-shirt with the effigy of their passion or their idol, like fans of Johnny! The most elegant people are usually those who want to respect the customs of their country of origin. You can bring me beautiful saris. People from Africa, on the other hand, are often dressed in their wedding dress, for the women, and a three-piece white suit, with matching gloves, for the men. I've had a bit of a crazy request, like this lady who had committed suicide and only had to wear one shoe. Of course I respected the request. I also saw a gentleman, beautifully wrapped in a shroud, like a newborn baby. Only once, the daughters of the deceased wanted to dress their mother themselves, as a last farewell. It was so touching … I always recommend that the “living” write down their wishes, so that the family does not grab the first pair of jeans. A friend asked me if he could be dressed in a cyclist's outfit. You should know that anything is possible!
“I am proud of my job”
As in all professions, it is not easy every day. I had to learn to breathe through my mouth because of the smell. The work is very physical. We have to lift the bodies, handle them, carry suitcases, heavy and bulky, because of the equipment. With my small build, it's not easy. I do gymnastics every day to maintain myself. You can also make a lot of trips by car during the day, between the hospital, the funeral home … But that's good fatigue! I come home with the satisfaction of a job well done. I work in peace, am autonomous, without a heavy hierarchy. And, above all, I feel useful, helping to make death less serious and shocking. I am well aware that my job is not common. When I do administrative procedures and people ask me my profession, I answer that “I am in the funeral and that I take care of conservation on the deceased”. In general, my interlocutor wants to know more, or gives me a "It is important what you do”. I am also fortunate to have friends, and especially a boyfriend, who are very open! Surprisingly, since I became an thanatopractor, my relatives confide in me more easily …
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