AGHUGHU, FEMALE MORTICIAN WHO OPERATES MORTUARY
For Mrs. Chinedu Aghughu, a typical day for her and her staff at Godswill Maternity and Nursing Home, Ewohimi, Edo State, often kicks off at about 8 am like any other public worker. A trained nurse of over two and half decades of experience, Mrs. Aghughu's passion for quality health care delivery is evident in the way she takes care of her patients.
However, her dual role at the clinic is unmistaken. Attached to the nursing home is also a morgue. Again, as the Chief Executive, the mother of four, her daily work schedule is considered incomplete without a routine check at the morgue, first thing in the morning as well as same wrapping up her activities before retiring for the night.
Nine years after the commencement of work at Gods will Maternity and Nursing Home, Daily Sun had an encounter with her.
How did you come into the business of operating a private-owned morgue service?
I trained as professional nurse at the St. Camillus Midwifery and Nursing School, Uromi in the early 80's. After which I got employed at various hospitals. My last place of employment before I started out on my own was a privately hospital, Nwaomu Clinic at Agbor where I worked as a matron until the demise of the Medical Director, Dr G I Nwaomu.
There, the hospital ran normal services as well as mortuary services. So, it was only natural that when I set up my own clinic, I would run mortuary services, too I still run clinic side by side this other service.
Give us an insight into what your typical day is like as a mortician?
My day starts normally like any other person who offers service to the public. I resume at about 8 am every day and close officially about 5 pm but much as I say that 5 pm is my official closing time, the services do not stop.
We have a schedule. We go to check them up as and when due. First thing in the morning, we look at them, later in the day and last thing before the close of work. Whenever a corpse is brought in here, we have a duty to receive and preserve it. No matter what time of the day it is. But I am most busy from Thursdays to Saturdays when people who might have deposited corpses usually come to take them.
I have no definite work schedule because it is only nature that determines when our service is needed. You possibly cannot determine when a corpse is to be deposited. You could only be informed on when it is to be collected. In that case, you are on whenever duty calls. For me as a private operator of mortuary services, I am on call 24/7 attending to the needs of the people.
This is naturally a profession thought to have been exclusively meant for men, are you not afraid doing this kind of job as a woman?
Is journalism not originally thought to have been exclusively for men? Are you scared?
So, why should I be?
Yes, there are two different areas. I am talking from the backdrop that you have to deal with corpses and naturally, the mere sight of a corpse scares people.
Times have changed and people have also changed with the times. There is no particular profession that is meant for the men alone. The Bible said that whatever your hand finds, do well.
You see, I have been operating this hospital for about nine years and I have never been frightened for one day.
My background as a nurse has prepared me for such a tough terrain. And I have found out that we can not all be journalists or bankers or oil explorers. Someone must take care of the dead.
Talking about fear, fear emanates from the mind. It is a function of your mind. As soon as you can conquer your mind and see what you are doing as basically offering public service and not working on corpses, then, you have nothing to be afraid of.
Apart from that, if we all become scared and decide not to touch the dead, then, who will? Have you ever wondered of what the world would be without certain people working day and night to preserve the dead?
Do you see your job as different from other peoples' job?
Why should I? I do not see it as anything different from what others do. Perhaps, the only difference is that while I see corpses on regular basis, bankers are in constant touch with different currencies and you are forever writing and so on and so forth.
Every job has its challenges and hazards. I believe that different people are cut out for different professions. Somebody must offer to do this job. In my role as nurse, my duty is to take care of the sick. On the other hand, I preserve and take care of the dead. I see what I do more of a service to humanity. I am humbled and deeply privileged to be able to serve mankind in these capacities
I have heard strange stories about attendants having to knock on the door of the morgue before going in, have you heard any strange experience?
Forget about all those stories about people seeing ghosts. It is mere myth and a function of the mind. I think it is a figment of people's imagination.
Why should I be afraid of a common corpse? I do not need to knock on any door before I go in, anyway.
Interestingly, I have more females working as staff in the establishment and they are as fearless as ever.
For me, dead men don't bite. As I said earlier, fear is natural phenomenon and for anyone in this business, you must be able to suppress fear to enable you function to your optimal level.
The dead has no power and whenever I am working, I see them as completely powerless and harmless. The job is not for the faint-hearted or lily-livered. It is for the brave and fearless.
After all, my people say that 'the dead does not harm one who prepares him for burial'. So, for all it is worth, the deceased should even be happy and thankful that we take care of them
I walk in there leisurely, whenever and do whatever I need to do and I have never experienced any strange thing. All those talks are baseless.
What would you say are the challenges of running this business?
Like any other service provider in this part of the world, the challenges are quite enormous. First, lack of regular power supply is essentially our problem. You see, a situation where you have to depend on the generator is not good for business. It is only in this country where I see that before one starts a business, no matter how small it may be, you need to first acquire all manners of generators because of poor and irregular electricity supply.
Here, we depend largely on our power supply. Of course, you can't possibly depend on PHCN.
You can't imagine the resources wasted on independent power generation every month?
Apart from that, we face other minor challenges like any other service provider.
Having been in this business of coming in contact on a regular basis and caring for deceased people, what lessons have you learnt over these years?
Working here has thought me the true meaning of life, which is sheer vanity and emptiness. Human beings are mere bleeding pieces of earth.
You know, we pride ourselves in absolute emptiness because we are simply like a blooming flower in the morning but weathers away in the evening. We are here today, gone tomorrow.
If only it is possible for individuals to visit sick people in the hospitals and morgues once in a while, I think that way, man would see the emptiness and folly of life. In doing this job, I have realized that death is a leveler and it is important we all realize same, too.
You sound passionate about your job, could you let me into your mind on this?
As a nurse, I have a professional obligation to care for the sick and if you are not passionate about what you do in any field of human endeavour, then, you are possibly in a wrong profession. Certainly, there must be something wrong.
I also have a duty to preserve properly, deceased persons because someday when I pass on too, somebody would also be in a position to put the remains together in a good form. So, I see both areas as essential and human-oriented services that must be given the best that I can offer.
What does fulfillment mean to you?
For me, fulfillment means putting in the best I can and knowing that I have done my very best.
How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as one who took care of both the living and the dead.