Joanne Ong, 24, Undertaker
This job really puts things into perspective. Sometimes, I wonder, what if it’s me on the table next?”
Technically, Joanne is an undertaker. But if you ask her, she’d tell you she’s an angel. A “Showers of Love” angel, that is.
The Life Celebrant, the funeral home where Joanne works, specialises in a service called Showers of Love – a process where family members of the deceased can help with the preparation of the body before it’s placed in the casket. Staff members like Joanne will be on hand to help with the washing of their hair and body, and applying makeup.
The facility where they conduct this service resembles a spa, and Joanne said that being able to do one last thing for the deceased can be very therapeutic for some families.
The 24yearold understands just how important this process can be. Her own mum passed away two years ago due to cancer, and one of her biggest regrets was not giving her mum a better sendoff.
“I didn’t know how to handle it. My mum didn’t tell me what she wanted, so I just googled for a funeral director and went with the top search result,” Joanne recounts. She remembers meeting the funeral director, and immediately being presented with packages and costs.
The last straw was when she saw her mum’s body after the embalming process. She didn’t look like herself, and was wearing the clothes she had worn to the hospital even though Joanne had handed them her mum’s favourite dress. When her family tried to get them to change it, they were told that nothing could be done.
“Nobody else should go through what I did,” says Joanne, irmly.
That same year, someone Joanne knew told her to try for a job at The Life Celebrant, and the rest is history.
One of her most memorable cases involved a family who had lost their mum, as their youngest daughter was around Joanne’s age when she has gone through the same thing.
On the last day of the funeral, the youngest daughter broke down uncontrollably. Joanne noticed she had been folding paper cranes at the wake, so she helped her to decorate the casket with them.
“This job really puts things into perspective. Sometimes, I wonder, what if it’s me on the table next? What if it’s my dad sending me off ? What if it’s someone I know?”