My name is Mrs Fati Laguda and I am a mortician, an embalmer.
I have been working here (TOS Funeral) for the past 10 years but I started embalming about six years, ago. When I started working here, I wasn’t an embalmer. I was trained by the company.
I was trained here at TOS Ikeja and learnt the rudiments of embalming a corpse, how to pick the post mortem cases after the embalming, and how to do the whole finishing, that is the washing, dressing and makeup ,because I also do the makeup.
It took me a year in training to be sure. Then, my manager was Mrs Yeside Agan, and she taught me the job. But she has left, she has relocated to America. So, when I was learning makeup, it was a hard task because I couldn’t even do makeup for a living person talkless for the dead, I am so sure of myself.
One does not really need serious qualification to become an embalmer, it just requires developing an interest in it. I’m only a school certificate holder.
An unforgettable experience I can remember was when one of ........
our colleagues died some years back. He was an ambulance driver and used to work with us in the mortuary. He was a very kind boy, and when they brought him, he was involved in a fatal accident and was burnt beyond recognition. So, I couldn’t handle it. I was even scared of going to the mortuary then but after that, I don’t think I have had any other bad experience except treating the corpses of disaster victims from the Dana Air crash, the Synagogue building collapse, and the Agagu crash. It was really a bad experience.
I get to work by 7:30 a.m. daily but we resume by 8a.m. The first thing I do is make sure I get to the mortuary, check what is on ground (number of corpses available) and I will check the mortuary register. In the register, there is a column where they write the position (status) of the corpse. For instance, if the corpses are to be embalmed or not. There is a column where it is indicated “yes embalm” and when you see “no”, it means no embalment. So, for me, I will check if there is any embalment to do, and then I will write it out and give it to the boys because I am not working alone. We are about six working as embalmers in the mortuary. So, I will write it out and give it to someone to drop the corpse. I can only embalm. After the washing, embalming and every other thing, I will ask them to wrap and put it in the fridge for me. I close by 4:30p.m, but before 6:00 p.m, I would have finished.
If someone wants to do embalment, what it entails is that you need chemicals and make sure you fill the tank with the chemical. We have an embalment tank and machine. Then, you need gloves, apron , scrub and one nylon called arm sleeves that we have to wear on our hands and nose masks. Then instruments like forceps and aspiration machine which we use to bring out the remaining fluid in the corpse which we usually do after embalment. Then we have needle for stitching and a tube because we embalm through the carotid artery. We pass the tube through the artery and inject the chemical. The essence is to preserve the body so that it doesn’t decompose.
I can’t count the number of corpses I have embalmed but it should be about 500. For instance, I may be slated to embalm two corpses and before the close of day, it might even be more than that.
Depending on the volume of work on ground, if there are many corpses to be embalmed, I can embalm six. But some other days it might be one or nothing.
I do go on leave. We have two quarters between January and June and someone can pick from any of the months when to go on vacation. I was on leave in March for 10 working days. I don’t have anywhere to go. I stay at home and rest during my leave.
I am happy and passionate about doing this job. I feel some of the corpses are my mates but I am still alive.
Initially, I had this awkward feeling when handling corpses, but now, I don’t have any feeling whatsoever, but if I see kids whose parents died and they are brought here, I feel so bad throughout the day.
I am happy doing this job because someone has to do it.
I do like the job. What I like about the job is the makeup aspect. It’s because, after finishing the makeup, you won’t be seeing the corpses as dead.
We go through so many challenges. There was a day we admitted a corpse and relatives said there was a ring on one of the finger. When they brought the corpse we couldn’t find the ring. You can imagine us doing this kind of job and stealing. I don’t think it’s something reasonable. We can’t be seeing someone dead on ground and stealing from it. Well, they might be doing it somewhere else but not here which we know is a private mortuary. So, some people will come shouting. Like all these touts, if they have a corpse here, it’s war, because they will come en mass and start shouting, throwing things at us even to the point of beating some of us. But what do we do? The customer is always right. We have to endure. I trained as a hairdresser, and I like hairdressing. If I am not doing this job, I can go back to hairdressing or maybe selling soft drinks and not beer.
There was a time I felt I didn’t want to do this job. Then they brought a corpse here. So, I wanted to sign out the corpse and found out that the corpse I was signing out was my relation, not my biological sister but sister by extended family. They had brought her from the North. I was shocked. I just called my mum and told her I wasn’t doing this job again because I didn’t like what I saw.
I have never been embarrassed on the job. The job I can never do is the job of LAWMA especially highway managers that go along the road collecting refuse from point to point. That is the only job I cannot do because of the dangers involved.
I do not encourage my children to do this job. I have a daughter in the university. She said she wanted to come and do summer job with us but I said no.
If I come back to this world, would I do this job? If God says so I will, because what I am doing now, I believe in God and I believe that what I am doing is what God wants me to do so I can gain the experience of life. That’s what I always think of.
What other options do I have? If I was educated in the first place, I wouldn’t be doing this job. But since I’m not well educated, I have to do it.
Share your thoughts....thanks!