Monday, 20 July 2015

Working In Mortuary is God’s Calling---Mortician

By Okechukwu Onuegbu and Tony Oji
Although people die every day; in this part of the world, you may be treated with disdain whenever you mention the words ‘death’, ‘casket’ or ‘morgue’ in the public. Consequently, the society often misconstrues the people rendering [post_ad] special services to the dead either directly or indirectly despite being indebted to their services.
Morticians are such kinds of “wonderful persons” mostly stigmatised and misrepresents as ‘the spirits’ ‘ritualists’, ‘hopeless’ among other unprintable names. However, in this special interview with the reporters of Orient Daily-Tony Orji and Okechukwu Onuegbu, a professional mortician with over 15 years of experience, Mr. Henry Okah described the job as ‘God’s calling; noble and lucrative profession worth of venturing into by all humans.
Read on!
Who is Henry Okah?
Henry Okah hails from Afikpo in Ebonyi State. I am a Chief Mortician. And I have been in the profession for over 15 years. I started at a very tender age; about 13 years old, but I am now 30 years old.
I hold Diploma in Embalmment. I have worked at Borromeo Hospital, Onitsha; Bendel Clinic Warri, Delta State; Queen of peace; Umuchu Special Hospital; Agundu Hospital Awka; Regina Ceali Hospital, Awka; Maris Hospital, Abia state; Chetakwa mortuary, Obolo, Imo state; Amaku General Hospital, Awka (now Amaku Specialists Hospital); Cottage hospital and mortuary.
What Has been your experiences in the profession?
It is a noble profession. I see it as God’s callings. The cares for the dead requires the attention of special people. God’s fearing people. Not all can handle it effectively, truthfully and fearfully without contamination of ideas considering the poor remunerations, chemicals use for embalmment, societal stigmatisation, operational mechanism, what it takes and so on.
At first, you may feel discouraged or scared to work in an environment full of corpses. But after sometimes, you will adapt to the nature. I work every time; morning, afternoon, night, midnight, etc. anytime my attention is required.  
Most places we are not valued. The employers can even over labour you. I had worked in a place where over 100 corpses were kept. I took charge of them alone as my colleagues; two other persons resigned due to personal reasons which may not be unconnected to poor emoluments and maltreatments from both the employer and the society. For instance, some clients would shout on you, accuse of you killing their beloved in order to earn money. However, some would help and appreciate you earnestly. I have so many clients who had been of help to me.
Why poor remunerations?
You know in the olden days when the profession began, practitioners requests for gift items such as cocks, hens, tubers of yams, gins, etc. and they use kaiki (dry gins) and others for the embalmment unlike now our modern society is hard to succeed without money. Besides, science and technology have been introduced into the industry for optimum service delivery. We can apply formalin which keeps corpse for about 10 years without decaying. I can embalm up to 100 dead bodies a day. I usually embalm a corpse under 10 minutes.
It is unfortunate that the operators (owners) of Mortuaries are yet to adapt to that moving trend in terms of payments. All they mostly do is to discourage us from requesting for or accepting any form of inducement or bribery and corruption.  
How true is it that morticians communicate with the dead?
Somehow is true because once there is a relationship communication must take place. But in this regard, it is false. Dead people do not communicate.
Why then do people claim you must knock at the door of a morgue before entering?
It is unbelievable! Since I became a mortician to date, I have never knocked before entering into any morgue. There is no formality for entering into mortuary. But you know people can tell all manner of lies to extort money from people.  So, some may use those lies to defraud their customers.
How do you admit corpse to mortuary?
The bereaved or those who brought the corpse must first register them at appropriate place in the morgue, and make some payments as applicable. We thereby issue them with tags or receipts as the case may be.
The payment is usually daily because we don’t encourage people to keep dead body in mortuary for years. That is why the more the days the more the charges.
Do you pray for customers?
No! We don’t need to do that. It’s like a Doctor praying for patients (or people to sick). It is improper, unprofessional. People die everyday. So corpses will naturally come to us day by day.
Could you advise your beloved to practise this profession?
Yes I will! It is a noble profession, very lucrative and respectful. We render services to God and man. That is why I work even on Sundays. Whenever I have cases to attend to, I will do that here. There is nothing wrong been a mortician.
There are caskets of different sizes, model and cost here, how do people patronise them?
It is all about how individuals wished to bury their loved ones. Some caskets cost N5000, others N6000 and even a million naira. But they all rot between 3 to six months in the grave.
Sometimes, we hear of missing parts including disappearance of the whole corpse, what could be the cause?
Are you saying that corpse or some parts could disappear just like that? No! It is either the people (morgue/operators of the mortuary) sold it to the ritualists. This is why people must be careful of where they deposit their corpses. There was no such report all over the places I have worked so far.
How do you feel at home after been in the morgue?
As I stated earlier on, when I started the job, I used to have nightmare where corpses attacked me.  It was terrible then, and I wished to withdraw from the service. But later, I adapted and since then, I never had bad dreams. I now live normal life.
What is your relationship to the world? How do people feel relating to you?
Well, there is always stigmatisation whenever you introduce yourself as a mortician. The family members and friends often mistake you to operate with charms. Host of them believed we belonged to other world or spirit to avoid been strike by the dead. But it is all fallacy and misconception. Corpses do not strike. And you don’t need evil powers to be a mortician. I am a devoted Christian.
To reduce the tension to a barest minimum, whenever you meet a male or female friend, you may hide your identity until they get to love and appreciate you for who you are. If not, they will run away.  
As an experienced Mortician, what is your advice to the government for improvement of the noble profession?
I wish to advice the government to engage professionals in the field. Lots of quacks or what they call contractors are given us a bad image. It is a pity that they don’t employ experienced morticians to the job. I was frustrated to resign at a particular government owned mortuary in Anambra State because of the contractor they later gave the job after people like us-the pioneer morticians led solid foundation. They contracted a person who neither has academic nor working experience to coordinate us. The man was neither a mortician nor doctor but was picked from nowhere because of his connections and relatives in the governance. He looked down on workers salaries and welfare, over laboured us, the environments was polluted, among other unholy act. These kinds of persons are mainly interested on how to amass wealth not services. They could perpetrate nefarious acts to make money. The best way to render quality services in this profession is employment of experienced morticians!
For more infor, buy Orient Daily, 21 July edition of which our publisher, Okechukwu Onuegbu (also report for) or wait for other national papers that will soon carry the news



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