“The living are scarier than the dead,” Sarah Ang, 36, director of Serenity Casket & Fu Tangs funeral home and mortuary (Singapore) shared on Asia One.
Justine Ann, 32, Sarah’s employee, agrees. Justine used to work as a nurse and hotel staff, she switched to the funeral service with the reason: “I don’t want to work with the living”.
Sarah and Justine are part of a group of 4 girls who handle, preserve and make up bodies. The other 2 members are Lim Yi Huey, 25 years old and Nicole Chong, 27 years old with more than 7 years of professional experience.
From left are Justine Ann, Lim Yi Huey, Nicole Chong and Sarah Ang.
The “office” of the four girls is a small room with two steel tables side by side, a sink and specialized equipment. Even when wearing a mask, people can still smell the smell of disinfectant in the air.
Previously, not many women in Singapore were supported to perform body work. However, things have changed in the last 5 years and Sarah sees more and more young people interested in joining this work.
For Yi Huey, the youngest of the group, what draws her to her current job is her interest in the human body.
“I look forward to being able to help a deceased person on their final journey,” she said.
Follow Asia OneThe girls’ work included cleaning the body, injecting chemicals into the arteries to preserve it, changing clothes, and putting the body in a coffin. They also do hair, makeup and even manicure for the deceased.
Following the trend of the times, Sarah replaced regular nail polish with gel polish, using a UV lamp to dry. She jokes that sometimes the group’s office is like a nail salon.
Team members wear protective clothing when working.
The female director said that during many years of working, the group has encountered many special situations. It was the case of a client who wanted a loved one’s hair to be bleached before being dyed.
“I don’t know if the scalp of the deceased is sensitive to chemicals. What if her hair falls out? So I had to ask a lot of clients about the deceased’s death. Have you ever dyed your hair before?” Sarah said.
With Nicole’s help, Sarah dyed the body’s hair according to the wishes of the family.
“We certainly did our best. Thankfully, the family is pleased with the end result.”
The office of 4 girls.
There was another case that made Sarah awkward. One client asked her to apply red round blush and lipstick to her deceased mother’s lips.
Sarah thinks of traditional spiritual models, but has to try to put that thinking aside and follow her client’s wishes.
“At the end, the customer even asked me to apply blue eyeshadow for my mother. I had to ask how many times, she said that when she was alive, she always applied makeup like that.
It’s a situation I’ll never forget. Honestly, the guests who visit the deceased afterwards will be amazed with this make-up,” she said.
Disposing of a body will take about two and a half hours.
Another difficult case Sarah encountered was a death that occurred on a cargo ship.
“We spent 6 hours adrift at sea. The body of the deceased was placed in the refrigerator by the crew, which they still use to preserve food every day.
When he returned to the mainland, the body was severely decomposed, the skin began to peel off and gave off an unpleasant odor. I had to ask people to find incense to put around,” Sarah said.
Change your mind about family
The specific work has made the team members appreciate life more, especially spending more time with their children and loved ones.
Sarah shared on Asia One: “I now value my time with my family so much. Last month, when my grandmother passed away, I regretted not spending more time with her. I started to think that I needed more balance. between work and life. Otherwise, my life is a waste.”
The specific job makes them want to spend more time with their family.
Member Nicole added: “Me too. On my days off, I will try to go to my grandparents’ house even if I don’t do anything there, just to go for a walk with them.
We will never know when we will die, so we must live each day to the fullest.”
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