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It's not as cold as you'd imagine, even the room where the fridges are isn't cold.
Death may be coming to all of us, but have you ever noticed how people don't talk about it, let alone want to know what happens to their body after they take their last breath.
Jade Kelly never planned to be a funeral director.
She stumbled across the occupation during a practical component of her social work degree through Wollongong University.
She had a 500-hour placement at Tender Funerals, located at Port Kembla, and within two weeks knew it was the job for her.
"It has a lot of social work - grief and loss obviously, but also drug and alcohol, disability, young people," she said.
Amid the sombre and at times clinical surrounds, Kelly is bubbly and bright.
"Death is a part of life," she explains as she welcomes us in the front door of the funeral home, which is located in the old Port Kembla Fire Station.
She'd agreed to take us on a tour and explain what happens when a body, or as she says "your person", arrives until they leave.
Arriving at a funeral home
Bodies arrive in a white van and are brought in through the same large roller door the fire trucks once used.
A stretcher moves it to the mortuary and your person will be wrapped in a sheet and a pillow put under their head. Any valuables on the body are recorded in the mortuary book.
If a clean up of the body is required it will happen in the mortuary. Otherwise, they are moved into the fridge room.
The fridge room
This room is stark and empty, except for six large silver fridge units that sit side-by-side on a wooden floor.
Each unit has three drawers - one person per drawer - with room for up to 18 bodies. There are also two bariatric fridges located in the mortuary. Fridges are set to around two to five degrees.
The fridges are where your person spends the majority of their time before the funeral.
The wash and dress room
This room has the ability to soothe a grieving family member, Kelly explains as we walk in.
It almost looks like a loungeroom, there's comfy chairs, plants, art on the walls, a rug on the ground and it's full of natural light (although the windows have privacy screenings on them). In the middle of the room though is a mechanical bed draped in a white sheet, this is where your person will be.
Kelly took time to explain the process in this room, the 'wash' is more a ceremonial wash, a pat down with damp cloths. It's all about that final physical touch with your person.
The 'dress' part gives people the chance to put their loved one in their final outfit, paint their nails, or do their makeup or hair.
"I had one person who wanted to dye the grey roots on their person's head black again," Kelly said.
For those not having a funeral service, this can be where you say your final goodbye to your person.
"As soon as they get in here it's their mum, it's their brother, it's whoever it was. They either cared for them in their life, they've given them a bath either at hospital or they gave them a bed bath," she said.
"Families go 'I'm so glad I did that'. They leave saying 'I feel so much lighter. I'm so happy I got to do that for my mum'."
For Kelly a good day at work often comes after families have cared for their person in this room, they often say: "Wow I never knew this was possible".
Around 40-45 per cent of families opt to have a 'wash and dress'. They can be done even if you're not having an open coffin.
A funeral director can be present, but only if you want, and they'll assist with the practicalities such as rolling your person while you dress them.
Embalming, shrouds and eye caps
Muslim burials can be accommodated and they are often very quick - completed within 24 hours - compared to non-Muslim funerals.
Because they are shrouded, Muslims are one of the few NSW residents who don't have to be in a coffin when buried.
Embalming can be done, Tender doesn't offer this service and will call in a mobile embalmer if it's required.
A quirky fact about death is that often your eyes and mouth will stay open, due to all your muscles relaxing.
Families will be asked if they'd like their person's eyes and mouth closed.
"It's just like a suture so that their mouth closes and [we] put some eye caps in," Kelly said.
Cool plates for more 'at home' time
If you're not ready for your person to go to a funeral home just yet, cool plates can be used. They are placed on the bed and topped with a blanket or sheet, and it helps keep the body cool.
Kelly warned though, you can definitely see degradation in the body by five days after death.
Dogs, cats and families come to view
Viewings are common and they happen in dedicated rooms that are non-clinical.
It's not just people who come for a viewing, dogs and cats are also given the chance to say goodbye to their person.
"We put the scissor lift right down to the bottom and the dogs come in. It's so hard, the dogs know," she said.
On the day the Mercury visited, a grieving mother was viewing her adult son who'd died by suicide a few days earlier.
It has a lot of social work - grief and loss obviously, but also drug and alcohol, disability, young people.- Funeral director Jade Kelly
Some of Kelly's toughest days at work are meeting with families of sudden death or young people who die. Other tough moments are when palliative people come in to plan their own funeral, and she later cares for them after they die.
On those tough days being near water or nature is her escape, so too is "driving home with the music blaring".
"At the end of the day, you just become so grateful for your health and also family because you don't know how quickly that can change," she said.
Coffins covered in pink glitter
A while ago a woman aged in her 30s died, she had five children under 12 years old. As part of their grieving process her kids decorated her coffin in pink glitter.
"Kids are quite upfront and sometimes very surprisingly switched on around death," Kelly said.
Coffins can be the traditional wood variety with metal handles, but these days they can also be cardboard, pine or whicker, and families often decorate them in honour of their person.
Sometimes families take them home to decorate, they can also be decorated in a dedicated area at Tender Funerals.
Some have special items buried with them, recently a woman had her beloved pets buried with her.
On the Highway to Hell
Kelly laughs when asked about some of the funnier songs she's heard played at a funeral, among them are Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and Purple People Eater.
"We even had Highway to Hell played in a church," she said.
Why don't we talk about death?
In the past nursing homes would tell residents to wait in their rooms as they quickly rushed bodies out the back door to waiting funeral directors. These days a guard of honour is often conducted.
Kelly said society is getting better at talking about death, and she praised the Maori community who do it well.
"They take them [their person] home, all the grandkids, they sing, they dance, they do death really well," she said. "Death is a part of life."
Top tip from the expert
Don't rush the process. People often feel like they've got to rush the arrangements and have the funeral as quickly as possible.
"It doesn't have to happen very quickly," she said.
- Tender Funerals operates as a not-for-profit funeral service provider.
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