Do Not Be A Death Tourist

I was riding shotgun with a funeral director my first week on the job to pick up a body from a nursing home. He (like everyone else) wanted to know why I was doing this. 

I gave him my usual overly-deep response of wanting to be on the frontlines of grief. He thought for a moment before saying: “Good, we get so many weirdos who think death is cool.” 

After laughing about *those freaks* I sheepishly thought about the anatomical heart lamp I almost bought from Morbid Anatomy.

Am I one of those death weirdos? Did an honorary ring just appear in my septum? 

Not gonna lie, when I saw my first burning skeleton in the crematory, my immediate thought WAS “cool!” – followed by a stab of guilt. 

Blame the lizard/little boy part of our brains. Or Western society keeping death at such a distance that seeing it up close has become a peep show rather than a reality. 

I oscillate between: 

Bleeding heart – “I will blast Dolly Parton for your sweet mother the entire ride to the funeral home.” 
And outspoken levity – “I picked up two dead bodies at once today. Call me death slut.”

It’s wild. Swinging from This Is Us sap to CSI gore. Choking up when a little girl says, “Thank you for taking care of my Papa” yet chuckling while checking a hand for jewelry that OPE, HAS NO FLESH ON IT. “No rings to remove then…”

Is this a normal phenomenon? Do cops ache for a family while simultaneously geeking over a thrilling blood spatter on the wall? Perhaps there’s something to the light-and-dark duality of emotionally-charged careers. Caring too much ends you, yet caring too little hardens you. 

Maybe I’m just creepy. Or maybe this is the tension that plays out as a brain, a heart and a soul dance in the shadow of death.