Hayley was invited to dress a dead body. She says it was the ‘gift of a lifetime’

Hayley Campbell, a British-Australian journalist and author, recently visited a London mortuary and became familiar with the concept of death.

During her visit, she had been invited along to the mortuary to help dress a dead man before his funeral.

She says it was the “gift of a lifetime”, far from being gruesome

Ms Campbell, spent two years with people who work with death to have more insights for her new book ‘All the Living and the Dead’

The three people she met on this journey were:

The funeral director, Poppy Mardall, who runs Poppy’s funeral home in South London

“She’s progressive in the way she does it. She encourages her customers to come in and dress their dead, to have some kind of interaction with the body, in order to give them that chance to see death and reckon with it,” Ms Campbell says.

The bereavement midwife, Clare Beesley, who is a bereavement midwife, which is a midwife who only delivers babies who have died in utero or those who won’t live very long. 

“Through the training [to become a bereavement midwife], Clare found out that she could do something. She couldn’t bring the babies back to life, but she could make that situation so much better for the mother,” Ms Campbell says.

The death mask maker, Mr Nick Reynolds, who runs a business creating death masks in the UK.

“[The finished product is] this 3D picture of a person’s face as they were when they died … Nick puts so much care into getting everything right. He’s not going to smooth the face so that the wrinkles are not there,” Ms Campbell says.

Lessons learned

“To me, seeing is understanding. But it’s more than that … It’s caring for somebody at the last moment, the last point you can be there for them,” Ms Campbell says.

The other thing she learnt was the important, if largely unrecognised, work done by those in the death industry.

As Ms Campbell puts it: “A body does not magically disappear or transport itself to the grave … [People in the death industry] deal with the things we cannot bear to look at, or so we assume. Our sky falling is their routine.”

She says everyone she met had their own personal reasons on why they’d chosen to work in this industry, but they all shared one thing.

“They can’t bring a person back to life, but they can make things better for the living.”

Source: ABC News