‘Our falling sky is their routine: ‘What’s it like working in the industry of death?

During a recent visit to a London morgue, Hayley Campbell learned about the concept of death.

Ms Campbell, a British-Australian journalist and author, had been invited to the morgue to help dress a dead man ahead of his funeral.

“We took the clothes he died in and folded them, because his family wanted to keep them. Then we put him in the clothes he was going to be buried in,” she told the newspaper. ABC RN’s Saturday Extra show.

But for Ms. Campbell, the experience was not horrible. There was nothing dark or scary about the process. Far from there.

Looking back, she calls it the “gift of a lifetime.”

death is everywhere

On average, around 6,300 people around the world die every hour. That’s about 152,000 people every day. And 55.4 million people every year.

Death happens everywhere, all the time, and at some point in the future it will happen to you.

But for Ms. Campbell, the concept of death in Western cultures is at best obscured and at worst entirely absent from our lives.

Or as she puts it: “We run away from death, biologically, but also psychologically.”

A woman dressed in black standing in front of a hedge
Hayley Campbell spent two years immersed in the death industry, speaking to those who work with death.(Provided: Hayley Campbell)

So for her new book, All the Living and the Dead, Ms Campbell spent two years immersed with people who work with death, or what she calls the “death industry”.

Here are three people she met on that trip.

The funeral director

Poppy Mardall runs Poppy’s funeral home in south London.

With its pastel-colored branding, creative ceremonies on offer, and promotion of eco-friendly packages, it’s not the funeral home many expect.


It was Mrs. Mardall who invited Mrs. Campbell to come and help her dress the dead man.

“It was part of her progressive thinking. She wanted to give me the chance to see death,” Ms Campbell said.

Ms. Mardall was not always a funeral director. She used to work at high-end auction houses, selling expensive works of art and jet-setting around the world to find new pieces.

But her life changed after she nearly died of typhoid in Ghana.

“[Poppy] was angry that he had to face death and the idea of ​​dying without having ever seen a dead man in his life. And I think that’s true for most of us — in Australia coffins are [usually] closed and here in England the coffins are also closed,” says Ms Campbell.

“[Poppy had this] severe fear… [Imagine] if you were dying, if you were close to death, but you had never seen a corpse in real life, all you have are corpses from video games and movies, it is terrifying.”

So, after recovering from typhoid, Mrs. Mardall decided to become a freelance funeral director.

“She’s progressive in the way she does it. She encourages her clients to come in and dress their dead, to have some sort of interaction with the body, to give them that chance to see death and relate with it.” , said Ms. Campbell. said.

The midwife of mourning

As a young midwife, Clare Beesley had a traumatic experience that would affect her life.

A woman at the hospital where she worked gave birth to a very premature baby boy. The baby was so premature that the family and medical staff knew he would not survive.

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