Ann Njoki’s story begins with a traumatic experience.
When her mother passed away, she and her family were confronted with an insensitive and intoxicated mortician, making an already painful time even more unbearable.
However, it was a subsequent visit to the morgue that changed Ann’s life forever.
”After high school, we went to the morgue to pick a friend who’d passed away and we met a female mortician- she received us well and treated us with empathy. I admired her a lot and inquired on how one becomes a mortician,” Ann narrated.
Determined to make a difference and driven by the memory of that inspiring encounter, Ann decided to pursue her dream of becoming a mortician.
She understood that her journey wouldn’t be easy, especially given the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the profession.
Ann faced initial hesitation, particularly from her family.
She was concerned about how her grandmother, her guardian, would react to her career choice.
“I asked myself ‘what would people say? Will my family support my course?’ At first, I didn’t tell my grandma but instead spoke to one of my young uncles who is a teacher. He was initially hesitant as he perceived morticians as being drug addicts and he thought I’d be oriented into the same.”
To equip herself with the necessary skills and knowledge, Ann embarked on a unique educational path. She decided to study cosmetology, believing that her makeup skills would complement her future role as a mortician.
With the support of her family, Ann pursued formal education in Mortuary Science at Egerton University funeral home.
This marked the beginning of her transformation from a young woman with a dream to a professional mortician.
Ann’s responsibilities as a mortician are varied and demanding. She handles tasks such as registering bodies, cleaning, embalming, temperature regulation, dressing, and encoffining.
Her work requires both technical expertise and a compassionate heart, as she often interacts with grieving families during their most difficult moments.
Growing up, Ann had never imagined herself working as a mortician. Like many children, she had aspirations of becoming a doctor or even a pilot.
However, life had a different plan for her, and her journey took her down a less conventional path.
Ann openly acknowledges that working as a mortician can be mentally taxing. The stress doesn’t stem from the deceased but from the mourning families she serves.
To manage this emotional burden, Ann emphasizes the importance of having a strong support system and access to counseling services, which help her maintain her mental well-being.
Ann’s work has exposed her to challenging situations, including traumatic incidents involving children.
She shared a particularly harrowing encounter that left her deeply affected, contributing to her decision not to have children of her own.
“My first encounter with a child who had been defiled was jarring- I have never recovered,” said Ann, adding that “it doesn’t take courage to be a mortician but God’s grace.”
Ann is on a mission to challenge the negative stereotypes and stigmatization surrounding morticians and the death care industry.
She wants to debunk myths and promote a deeper understanding of her profession.
“I have seen a lot of stigmatization around death and this career- some view morticians as a bad omen. I want to debunk all these myths. It’s a male-dominated industry but more women are coming aboard and I appreciate that.
It’s tough for a woman working as a mortician as every day, people tend to doubt you and you have to continually prove that you can do your job. What motivates me is the fulfilment after serving people and seeing they are satisfied – giving my best keeps me going.”