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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A matter of life and death

    A typical day in the life of Kate Cross involves embalming fluid, makeup and dead bodies.

    Cross is one of many morticians in Tucson, but her job is not as creepy as you might think. The 25-year-old is a funeral director and embalmer at Adair Dodge Chapel, 1050 N. Dodge Blvd.

    Unlike most high school students, who are consumed with the daily drama of their lives, Cross started thinking about mortuary sciences when she was 16. Not that her life has always been without drama.

    “”The main reason that I wanted to do this was because I had a friend who passed away when I was young,”” she said. “”Since it was suicide, I wanted to be able to do more for families and more restoration of bodies. When most funeral directors consider a body not viewable, it just means that they take more time to restore.””

    Cross received her degree in applied science and mortuary sciences after two years of study at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

    “”We learned different ways of suturing to restore the body if they were in an accident and how to make the deceased appear natural,”” Cross said. “”We learned laws and regulations and what’s involved in a funeral service, different religious practices, and how to tactfully talk to families about funeral arrangements.””

    Bob Case, 60, has also made his career in working with the all-too-quiet.

    Case has worked full time at Brings Funeral Home, 6910 E. Broadway Blvd., since 1998. He became interested in mortuary sciences after working as a night attendant at a funeral home while he was in college. It was a chance for him to make money and also gave him time to study, he said.

    Case’s mortuary career went on hold when he spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force. Upon his retirement, Case decided to pursue his interests and went to Mesa Community College to receive his associate’s degree in mortuary sciences.

    Mesa Community College started its mortuary sciences program in 1995, and a crematorium was added in 2005 to fully educate students about cremation procedures. The program is the only one in Arizona and has had 250 graduates since its inception.

    Education in mortuary sciences includes learning about dressing bodies, preparing caskets, how to do hair and makeup and how to cremate bodies. On any given day, Cross and Case perform any and all of these duties as funeral directors.

    While mortuaries are common around the country, morticians who work in the desert have unique challenges.

    “”I’m from the Midwest, so I rarely got a decomposed body there,”” Cross said. “”But here it’s quite common, especially because of desert deaths and exposure to the elements.””

    Both say their jobs have strengthened their relationship with life and family.

    “”I always think that even though it’s not planned, this could be the last day that I see my family,”” Cross said. “”I think it makes me appreciate every day and every hour that I have.””

    Case has arrived at a similar conclusion.

    “”It makes you very aware of it – that we’re all here on borrowed time,”” he said. “”You never know when death might take you, or how. Your relationships with family tend to be different.””

    At the same time, it’s also reminded them of the inevitability of death.

    “”Death is an integral part of life,”” Case said. “”Whether you’re afraid of death or not goes back to your basic beliefs. Is there life after death, or is this all there is? I think those things have more of an effect on whether you’re afraid of death or not, more so than working here.””

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