The theme this year was "Under the City", which I choose to interpret quite literally, and therefore arranged to follow an undertaker for a day. It was a mentally challenging experience but equally interesting, and the experience has definitely stayed with me for a while.
I would have loved to have had the time to follow him for more than just a day though. I think this would have given a more interesting and diverse view on what an undertaker actually does besides what we see from the outside.
Either way, here it is:
" Most of us try not to think about it all too much. Death. But it is however inevitable that we will all meet with it at some point. Then we will find our last place of rest in the earth under the city.
Here we will find peace and quiet and slowly become one with nature, while life goes on a few feet above us.
But before we can get there there are a couple of very special people we need to get through first: The undertakers. They posses the key to our place under the city. "
Undertaker John Skou and his three colleagues from Begravelse Danmarks Aarhus-department meet up every morning and plan the day over coffee and cigarettes. Something might have happened over night which might influence the original plan.
Even though the job has a serious natural weight to it, there is still room for jokes and laughter. "It's necessary with this job", says Skou.
A cremator at Vestre Lille Kapel crematorium is preparing a coffin for cremation while conversing with Skou.
On top of the coffin lies a drawing from the deceased's grandchild. This small gesture suddenly made it all very real and personal.
Approximately 80% of the job as undertaker consists of paperwork, and furthermore a lot of the day is spent driving around between home visits, the different graveyards and crematorium, hospitals, and Begravelse Danmarks storage-facilities in Risskov where they store the coffins and hearses.
The conversations with the families of the deceased and preparing the bodies and making them look nice for when their families cast one last look on them is the part of the job that means most to him.
Around midday a man calls. His father has passed at Skejby Hospital just an hour prior. Skou writes down the details and works out a price for him immediately per request.
There is a fine balance between business and it's cold numbers, and then the very personal and caring contact with the relatives of the deceased.