Warrawong mortuary opens doors to the living

Geoffrey Mullinger and Dael Page at Rankins Funerals' open day. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Geoffrey Mullinger and Dael Page at Rankins Funerals' open day. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

In a mortuary off Cowper Street at Warrawong, the doors are opened and the day's light is let in, along with a steady stream of the curious.

Visitors gather at the room's stainless steel table, which has a pipe, for drainage, running out from underneath.

Hundreds of the Illawarra's departed have been laid here to be washed, dressed and readied for their funerals.

Sometimes old ladies, too sick in their final days to maintain a beauty regime, have had their hair dyed here.

Though anyone could come and go from the room on Saturday, as part of an open day at Rankins Funerals, the room was normally a very private place, said Rankins manager Dael Page.

"This area is treated with the utmost reverence and respect. Nobody comes in without knocking. There is a process."

The open day - a first for Rankins - was designed to "demystify" the process that occurs after death.

Visitors were invited to ask questions, and some of the common ones came: Are you removed from the coffin before burial? Do you find it spooky here? Would I be embalmed?

To these Mrs Page answers: no, no, and no, not unless your body needs to be transported overseas, or entombed above the ground in a crypt.

"Death is still something that people are very reluctant to talk about," she told the Mercury.

"We're often asked sensitive questions when we don't always have the time - it could be during a funeral that people are asking these things.

"Whatever knowledge we can give them now will make the process easier when they need it, because when they need it they're in trauma, and it's like your brain shuts down a little bit."

Saturday's guided tours included the chapel, past an open hearse parked out front, through a back garage where coffins and caskets are dressed and personalised, and into a display room where different coffins line the walls. The boxes have names like "The Richmond" and "The Cedar",

Port Kembla granddad Geoffrey Mullinger, 87, took Saturday's open day as an opportunity to inspect the different models.

"It's been very informative," said Mr Mullinger.

"I've seen my box. It's not going to worry me."


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