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3 things a funeral director has learned about life and death

You could say Mary Vick Spaulding has spent her entire life in the death industry.

Her father, Harold, was a funeral director in Mount Clemens and he began teaching her the trade when she was in first grade. Back then they would spend time together in the embalming room as he began showing her the ropes. Spaulding says death has been something that’s been normal to her for her entire life.

Spaulding became a licensed funeral director 38 years ago, and for 25 years she worked alongside her father. He died in 2001 and these days she manages the family business, the Harold W. Vick Funeral Home.

I asked her to share what she knows about life and death that the rest of us might not know. Here’s what she said:

Anatomy is beautiful.

Spaulding says her father taught her to approach a human body with dignity and respect, and that the inside of a human body is a beautiful thing.

“The anatomy is always where it’s supposed to be,” she says. “It’s like a history book. You know, The War of 1812 is always going to be the War of 1812. But with anatomy and physiology, it is a creation of God and it all fits together like this fabulous puzzle.”

There are entities around us that can help us transition from life into death. 

Spaulding says she has had plenty of experiences with things she can’t explain throughout her career. They’ve never been scary or upsetting experiences. She says many families tell her stories about their loved one who, as they were dying, seemed to see a family member or relative.

That’s what Spaulding experienced with her own father, near the end of his life.

“He was in the hospital and he hadn’t been very responsive. He looked past me and then he looked up, and he smiled and winked. And I said out loud, ‘Whomever you are, you cannot have him yet.’ He passed away a month later.”

Life is short, so tell people you love them now. 

Another lesson her father taught her is to live your life the best way you can, and to tell people you love them. “Don’t wait until you're standing over someone’s casket to tell their family how great they were. Tell them now, life is short.”   

Spaulding believes she was put on this Earth to be a funeral director. She says continuing this line of work is a way for her to honor her father.

Kyle Norris is from Michigan and spent ten years as a host and reporter with Michigan Radio, the state’s largest NPR-affiliate. He lives in Seattle and works as a substitute host and producer at KNKX.
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