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Total job satisfaction for embalming duo

Embalmers Vicki Nation and Gaynor Nevitt are often the last people to care for the deceased. And it’s a role the friends regard as a huge privilege, they tell Sharon Barnard

They used to hang out together as youngsters back in the late 80s, and today these two women find themselves working alongside each other in a job they both love.

I enjoy total job satisfaction,” says Gaynor Nevitt, a former nursing home worker who opted to train as an embalmer rather than follow a nursing career.

I found it a natural progression going from caring for the living to caring for the deceased,” she explains.
It was while Gaynor was training with the British Institute of Embalmers that her friend Vicki Nation also became interested in the career. At that point she was working for a Life Assurance company assessing death claims, and discovered more about embalming while she was testing Gaynor on her coursework.

“As time went on, she very generously suggested I pursue embalming too as we could work together. Embalming is something I would have never considered if I hadn’t known Gaynor.” 

After Vicki qualified, the pair worked with a local mobile embalmer in funeral homes around Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, and sometimes London. But when their children came along they decided to cut back on the travelling and reduce their hours, though they continue to work for several Dorset funeral homes.

“When they call us each day to request our services we allocate the work and sometimes work together if there are particularly time-consuming or traumatising circumstances,” explains Vicki.
It's such an honour to be able to care for everyone

“We always appreciate how lucky we are to have each other for that and also offer similar support to our colleagues working in the South West.”

Part of their role is to be educators, often having in trainee nurses and forensic students to learn about the value of their service.

“We’ve been doing this for many, many years,” explains Vicki. “We take enormous pride in our service and educating those who do not know the reasons behind everything we do.

“Similarly, in showing documented evidence that the formaldehyde we use has no detrimental effect on soil and waterways we are able to dispel fear-mongering within the funeral community. Education is the key and Gaynor and I are very proud to be able to contribute to that.”

Day to day their aim is to ensure that relatives find peace and comfort when they visit the deceased in the chapels of rest.
“If we don’t carry out our work with care and kindness we believe it shows,” stresses Vicki.

“The loved ones’ requirements are always paramount and our funeral directors ensure that all the families’ needs are met.”
“Sometimes this means working on someone for two hours, sometimes it’s over two days and sometimes it’s not even embalming at all.”

I feel that by carrying out the wishes of the family you are respecting the deceased as they are best placed to know exactly what their loved one would have wanted,” Gaynor adds. “Specific make up, cardigan and cuddly toys are the most often requested and placed items.

“And I always talk to the deceased. Sometimes I will tell them how nice they look, or that I like a certain item of clothing, or that it suits them.”

“We often consider how we are the last people to care for that person,” says Vicki, “the last ones to hold their hands, clean and bathe their skin, hair and nails, dress them in their favourite clothes, and look at their face. 

“Additionally, we also marvel at how some people live with such terrible illnesses and pain, and in turn how people who love them have lived alongside them with their illness. 

“It’s such an honour to be able to care for everyone.

“There is a massive sense of relief when loved ones offer words of gratitude and appreciation and declare how peaceful someone looks. That’s our ultimate aim really – to take away any expression of sickness or pain.” 

This is a preview of a feature article.

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