Why Did You Become an Embalmer?: An Interview with Joanna

An interview with our Care Center Manager and Assistant General Manager, Joanna Ramirez:

 

– How long have you worked for O’Connor Mortuary?

I have been here at O’Connor since 2006.

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– When did you first learn about embalming? 

I first learned about embalming when I was in school and a guidance counselor passed a list of majors out to the class. I started looking into it and found all sorts of information on the history and present day of embalming.

– What made you think that embalming was something you might like to do professionally?

Growing up, I originally wanted to be a nurse but when I saw Mortuary Science on the list, I was intrigued. I have always enjoyed art and science and thought that embalming incorporated both of those aspects. I immediately fell in love with the idea of becoming an embalmer. I love the challenge and the responsibility of trying to make someone that I have never met into the person everyone remembers.

– What do people say to you when the find out what you do for a living?

Most peoples initial reaction to our profession is “Wow! You work with dead people?” or “You don’t look like you would work there”. It is always very interesting how people perceive us. They think I work in a dungeon and open people up and stuff them. When I get that type of reaction from people, I always like to elaborate on what I do. Not just the embalming parts but also the working with families. After conversing further with them, I find that their perception changes from thinking I am weird to having respect not only for what I do, but also for the mortuary profession that provides care for these hurting families.

Joanna Ramirez

Joanna

I feel rewarded in different ways. As an embalmer, I always feel gratification when a family thanks me because their loved one looks better than when they were alive (these are mainly people who die of cancer or another illness). To hear that from a family is the ultimate compliment. Also, there is the reward felt from the families’ gratitude towards you. Doing everything possible to assist families through their most difficult time and just being there for them is fulfillment enough.

– What do you do off the clock to relax?

On my time off, I like to spend time with my family. Whether we are going to Palm Springs, The River, or just a good old fashion road, my husband and daughter always join me.

– How have you seen your work help and comfort families?

Most of the time it is from just simply listening to them. Some families want someone to talk to. Someone to be an ear and listen to how he or she is feeling, how much they miss their loved one or how extraordinary that person was. It is simple but it helps families so very much.

– If you could tell people 1 thing about your job, what would it be?

That I love my job and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

 

What questions do you have for Joanna? After reading this interview, has your impression of this type of work changed?

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I'm Molly and I write for the blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.
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  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Another great blog, Molly. When I began working here at O’Connor, our care center and the role of our embalmers was a bit mysterious to me. To have the opportunity to learn about embalming and “unmask” the mystery behind it was eye opening for me. Joanna is amazing at what she does. She is a gentle leader among us.

    • Beautifully said Becky. Isn’t it interesting that we can work here and still know so little about this aspect of our profession? I’m glad that you found this informative, helpful, and demystifying. Joanna is awesome!

      • Joanna Ramirez

        Thank you Molly!

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Gentle? I like that Becky. I have to admit I have never described as such and am very much flattered!

  • Greg Forster

    I have very much learned to respect and acknowledge the value that this particular profession offers. The desire and ability to go beyond not only helping those that survive, but also to care for those who have passed on in making them look their very best for their final “close up” is a wonderful thing.

    Greg

    • Couldn’t agree with you more, Greg. I like how you said that you have “learned to respect” the value of what embalming offers not only to the family, but to the deceased person as well. I think the overall impression of embalmers is an icky or bizarre one, when really, most of the people that are interested in it bring compassion, care, and a service-attitude into their job.

      Thanks for reading & sharing your experience & perspective Greg!

  • Mark, you are so welcome! It’ s a unique voice to get to hear from. I’m so very pleased that you found it informative, helpful, and interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Joanna:

    Thank you so much for everything you do to help our families along on their journey of grief. What you provide is your great ability to connect with families on a much deeper level. Caring for their loved one and creating a comforting remembrance. You are a multi-talented woman, and those of us who know you are so grateful for your gifts. I know that those you serve are grateful as well. You, my friend, are an added portion of expertise, compassion, dedication and sensitivity. So glad that you are part of our “family of caregivers” here at O’Connor.

    Thank you!

    Pat

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Always filled with motivating words! Thank you Pat!

  • Neil O’Connor

    Joanna – I am proud of you and all the hard work you have given our company and community. You have a great gift as a teacher & mentor to our team, you have helped thousands of families heal in the journey of grief. It has been a pleasure to see you grow as a professional, a friend and a mother over these years. Thank you for your care, compassion, professionalism and friendship! Cheers!

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Thank you so very much Neil! It has definitely been quite a continuing journey.

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Nathan, it was an honor to care for your mother and family. I appreciate the kind words and am grateful in you for trusting myself and the rest of the team to care for your mother. No monetary reward is nothing compared to the feeling I feel when families tell me just that. Thank you very much!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Thank you señor! I am filled with info. Feel free to ask me anything anytime!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more, Fitz. Thanks for the great idea! Glad you enjoyed this one!

  • So glad you enjoyed it Lisa! This is always a topic of interest when people find out where I work and they always seem disappointed when they find out that I don’t do what Joanna does. It’s a fascinating profession and one that we all should know more about! Thanks for reading!

  • It was my sincere pleasure, Chuck! I’m always learning things working here and it was so much fun to learn about Joanna and get to share it with all of you. Thanks for reading!

  • Lori Bristol

    Joanna,
    I have known you for almost four years now and it has been quite a ride! The most unexpected and best surprise…learning about you! I have gone from thinking you were this tough as nails, smart mouth youngster who called me “Sir”, to realizing you are a caring, loyal friend, who instead calls me “lad”. My, how times have changed!
    Seriously, you have cared for some families who have been near and dear to my heart and given them the opportunity to view their loved ones when they did not think it would be possible. That is a tremendous gift. It is so unbelievably helpful for them to begin the healing process. Thank you for giving others a glimpse of who I have the pleasure of calling friend……or “Her Majesty”, as you usually make me approach you…..
    Love ya!
    Lori

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Oh Lori. “Her Majesty” is thankful for your friendship and support!

  • Hiro

    Thanks for sharing Joanna! It was a great read and thanks for all that you do here!
    Te amo.

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Te amo? Hilarious! It is always a joy working with you.

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Thank you Fitz! It is always a pleasure to work side by side with a Bears Fan!!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Thank you Charles. It has truly been an interesting story and I am thankful to you and the team for being instrumental in that growth. Thank you!!

  • What a great list of things to be able to say about someone. You are so sweet, Tommy! And just so you know, when we put together the next employee interview it will be about YOU!!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Well spoken young man.

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Tommy, I didn’t know you felt that way. You sir, are awesome!!! Thank you!!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    Yes we do sir. Yes we do!!

  • Joanna Ramirez

    No…. It is a priviledge to work along side you Miss Thompson!

  • Anne

    Thanks Molly for spotlighting Joanna. Nice Blog. And Joanna, thanks for all you do around here. You are one cool chick. I think motherhood has changed you. All that you already were inside that you tried to keep so well hidden is blossoming out in every direction. Not only do the families benefit…we all do.

    • It was my complete pleasure to do so! Joanna & Fitz came up with the idea to spotlight employees like this and I volunteered her to be first. What a great job she did! Thanks Anne!

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Anne, you are not the first to tell me that! I guess that is what motherhood does to some. I can’t wait to see what a second does. I’m going to be a marshmellow.

  • amy

    Thanks for the little bit of insite into who you are. You truly have a gift that deserves to be shared with others. Thank you for you constant help and support. It is a pleasure to be in your company.

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Thank you so much!

  • Sharon Watkins

    My first post did not work – so I’ll try again! I am so glad that Molly interviewed Joanna and we can all hear her thoughts about why she decided to go into this profession. We all know that she is so good at what she does and we love having her on our team.

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Thank you Sharon. That is very kind of you to say!

  • Shayna Mallik

    Joanna,
    Thank You for sharing just a little more about you. Your gift is truly amazing. You always are their to help support and teach each and everyone of us here at O’Connors. Thank you for always being there to support me. I enjoy working with you each day!!!

    Shayna

  • Elsa

    Interesting read Joanne,
    Thank’s for representing us all:) You did a fine job!

    • Joanna Ramirez

      You are a woman of many words!

  • Jenn

    “I love the challenge and the responsibility of trying to make someone that I have never met into the person everyone remembers.” my favorite quote, a great way to look at it, I am lucky to be learning from the best!

  • Rosemary

    Thank you for doing this interview, Joanna! Now everyone can see what a caring and professional person you are, yet always with a great sense of perspective and humor. I am proud and honored to work with you every day!

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Thank you Rosemary. I am rather funny!

  • Jeff Turner

    Joanna,
    You are such an amazing woman. The transformation of your life over the years I have know you is remarkable and yet in many ways I believe we will witness even greater things in you than we now know. Thank you for sharing about your work and life in this interview. You are indeed one of the most capable listeners I have known and your intuition about people is a little unnerving. That’s why I avoid you sometimes…. No, I don’t.

    I love your laugh, love for life, Joaquin and your beautiful girl. I pray for more and continued blessings upon you and look forward to being embalmed by you someday. I will try not to critique of your work. But just that one time.

    Hugs!

    Jeff Turner

    • Joanna Ramirez

      Jeffry Turner. I did not know you felt that way. I am absolutely humbled by your kind words. Thank you very much and appreciate and give my gratitude to you and the team for putting up with me through my growth. Thank you sir!!!

  • Christopher Iverson

    Joanna,

    It is such a long way that you’ve come as a woman, mother, embalmer and leader. I am so proud to be your partner running the GM chair at the mortuary. The great gift you give to all of us here at the mortuary is the gift of a higher standard of excellence. Thank you!