18 June 2014

'And death as beautiful as autumn leaves' - An Exclusive Interview


Let life be as beautiful as summer flowers
And death as beautiful as autumn leaves.

Rabindranath Tagore, 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature winner

We have makeup tutorials and Youtube videos to help us nail that perfect look for any occasion and any season. But have you ever wondered who is going to help make us look gorgeous after we have departed? 

It is thus my absolute pleasure and honor to have conducted this exclusive interview with Jenny Tay, a Funeral Services Director.

With a Business and Marketing degree from the University of New South Wales, good looks, and a bright future ahead of her, it is hard to imagine Jenny taking over her father's undertaker business at age 28. It seems though that this pretty funeral services director understands that her job is not a glamorous one but an essential one.

Interview with Jenny Tay, 28, one of Singapore's youngest funeral directors

Qn 1) What is the nature of your job like?

As a funeral director, my job involves assisting the bereaved family in funeral arrangements after the passing of their loved ones. You can view this as a more solemn and professional form of event planning, whereby you help to coordinate various aspects of the funeral ceremony, including the religious service, catering, tentage setup, embalming, cremation, etc.

I don’t have a regular schedule as we are on standby 24/7. Once I receive a phone call from the deceased's family, even in the wee hours of the morning, I will head down to meet them immediately so as to assist them with the funeral arrangements.

We help to coordinate every single part of the funeral process, including embalming, dressing up, the wake, religious ceremonies, cremation and burial etc.

Otherwise, I will be in the office handling business development. We even offer services such as memorial photography, elegant floral setup, wifi, waitress and night watch.

Qn 2) How do you apply makeup for the deceased so that he/she will look presentable at the funeral?

The makeup is applied in a similar fashion to makeup for someone who is alive.

However, special care needs to be taken to ensure that the skin is well prepped with hydrating cream. This is so that the makeup application can be smooth and non-blotchy.

Qn 3) Is there a difference in applying makeup on the deceased as compared to makeup for the living? 

Well, the obvious difference is that they can’t tell you their preferences of makeup. However, we take special care to make sure the makeup shade is compatible with the deceased's skin tone. What we want to achieve is a very natural finishing, as though the deceased looks asleep.

In the past, funeral makeup used to be very elaborate, with red lip stick and very red blusher, even on males! When I was young , I attended my maternal grandfather’s funeral in Malaysia. His makeup was so "elaborate" that it scared me.

Now, we emphasize on natural-looking makeup for the deceased so that he/she looks at peace and dignified.

{ Mortuary Cosmetology: to prepare the deceased bodies for open casket viewings }

Qn 4) Do you require special tools for applying makeup on the dead?

Our makeup tools are similar to normal cosmetic brushes, just that the brushes are stiffer as they are used on stiffer skin texture.

However, makeup for the deceased are non-thermogenic. They are specially made and they do not react with body temperature. Thermogenic makeup is for live skin. The body heat will break up the makeup so that it can be smoothly applied.

Qn 5) Any memorable anecdotes about your job? 

My job is definitely not for the faint-hearted as we deal with grief and death on a daily basis. However, it is a very meaningful career as we help the family through the entire grieving process and provide them with a proper closure at their point of loss.

Most people have a misconception that a funeral is for the dead. Actually, a funeral is very much for the living. A funeral ceremony allows families to bid farewell to their dearest one while drawing strength from their friends and relatives.

I remember vividly how two young teenage girls walked up to the podium in the memorial hall at Mandai and started singing opera in memory of their grandmother. Their voices echoed and intertwined, filling the memorial hall with music. They had the most beautiful voices I have ever heard.

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