Event planning for the deceased



It's common knowledge October is a month about dressing up, scary movies and things that go bump in the night.

It's a time for people to dress like the undead and reminisce over the actually dead -- the ones who have already passed on.

But what about the guys who deal with the real thing? The ones who handle the deceased on a daily basis?

Bill Trant of Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in Opelika grew up in the mortician business.

When he was younger, he used to have to stay in funeral homes overnight with the bodies.

"Sometimes you can scare yourself," he said. "Especially at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. You get there and imagine they're moving or something."

He said some strange things did occur when he was growing up.

"I would have friends come by and scratch the windows or do stuff like that," Trant said.

"You can be walking in a dark hall and think someone's lurking at you, but it's really nothing."

Trant prepares bodies for open-casket funerals.

"We don't do the hair," he said. "You know how women are funny about their hair, so we wash the hair, but we get a beautician to actually do the hair. Basically, we disinfect the body, wash the hair, the beautician can fix them up, and then for women we'll put the makeup on."

While being a mortician is an interesting job, it's still a job, and a demanding one at that.

Joseph Dean, funeral director and embalmer of Frederick's Funeral Home, said his average day is usually a long one.

"Well, usually the day begins at about 2 a.m. when you get woken up for a death call," Dean said. "Then you come up here, and if they need to be embalmed you need to embalm them; get done with that at about 4 in the morning. Then you go home, take a shower and go back to work at about 8 o'clock."

Dean is in charge of things such as obituaries, discussing the type and time of funeral families want and whether they want a cremation or just a normal memorial service.

"We're like an event planner," he said. "We make sure everything falls in place. We just make everything happen."

Both Trant and Dean have had interesting reactions from people who find out they are morticians.

"Well, a lot of them say things like, 'don't touch me,'" Trant said. "You know, silly little stuff like that."

Dean has had similar encounters.

"People act strange all the time," he said. "Usually saying things like, 'I can't believe you do that.'"

Technology in the morticians' field is increasing.

There are new chemicals and an increase in cremation services, but Trant said open-casket services are still the most popular type of service.

"I think it's because we know they've passed on," he said. "So people want to come say their peace; so people can say goodbye."

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