This year the theme was "Under the City". I chose to interpret it very literal, and 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.
I would have loved to have had the time to follow the undertaker for more than just one day though. I think this would have given a deeper and more diverse view on what an undertaker actually does aside from what we see from the outside.
My idea reads:
"Most of us try not to think about it all too much. Death. However it is inevitable that we will all meet with it at some point. In death we will find our last place to rest. In the earth. Under the city.
Here we will find the ultimate peace and quiet while slowly becoming one with nature, while life continues a few feet above us.
Before we can get to this place there are a couple of very special people we'll 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 Danmark's Aarhus-department meet up every morning and plan the day over coffee and cigarettes. A death overnight might have an impact on the original plans.
Even though the job has a serious natural weight to it, there is still room for jokes and laughter here. "It's necessary with this job", says Skou.
A cremator at Vestre Lille Kapel crematorium is preparing a coffin for cremation while talking with Skou.
On top of the coffin lies a drawing from the deceased's grandchild. A small but heartbreaking gesture.
Approximately 80% of the job as an undertaker consists of paperwork. Furthermore a majority of the day is spent driving around between home visits, the different graveyards and crematoriums, hospitals, and Begravelse Danmark's storage-facilities in Risskov where the coffins and hearses are stored.
The conversations with the families of the deceased, and preparing the bodies and making sure they look nice for one last look from their beloved is the part of the job that means most to Skou.
Around midday a man calls. His father has passed away at Skejby Hospital about an our ago. Skou writes down the details and works out a price for him.
There is a fine balance between the business and it's cold numbers and the personal contact with the relatives of the deceased.