SERIES (1/4). Their daily life with death: Megane Monteil is an embalmer, an “infinitely beautiful job”

SERIES (1/4).  Their daily life with death: Megane Monteil is an embalmer, an "infinitely beautiful job"

the essential
These professions live on death. Megane Monteil, 26, has been working as an embalmer for a year and a half. She gives care to the deceased to make them “peaceful” and allow the family to meditate with the person as they knew him.

The suitcases loaded in the trunk of her car, her outfit ready, and Megane Monteil is ready to hit the road again. In her pretty country house in Labastide-Murat, she waits to be called. Aged 26, the bubbly young woman is an embalmer. She travels in the Lot, and around neighboring departments, to provide care to the deceased. A profession that is the victim of many clichés.

Embalming treatments more and more requested by families

After college, Megane Monteil did a lot of odd jobs, and couldn’t find her way. Until she works for an undertaker. “That’s where I discovered the job of embalmer. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do. I kept going to see the embalmer from the funeral director to ask him for details about his job. I really enjoyed the contact with the deceased. It was almost inexplicable. I found the before/after fascinating,” says Megane.

She has been in the job for a year and a half now. She works directly with the undertakers, who call her quickly after the death. “We are a link in the organization of the funeral,” she says. Treatments are not compulsory, but they are increasingly popular. “People have taken a liking to meditating with a deceased who is beautiful,” she explains. On average, the young woman performs four treatments per day. “Sometimes I have only one treatment in the day, and the next day, I do 6”, she observes.

Find the deceased as when they were alive

Treatments last approximately one and a half hours. “It is about the injection of a preservative product which will act for a certain time. We also carry out a toilet: we wash the body, and we dress it. Then, there is the aesthetic part. Our goal , it is to make the deceased rested and soothed”, she confides. Appeased is a term that often comes up in the young woman’s speech. To ensure that the family finds the person as they had known. The embalmer listens to loved ones. “If a lady dies and she was flirtatious, we can put makeup on her, do her hair and even put nail polish on her. In fact, I try to restore some dignity to the person,” says Megane.

The embalmer has no fixed laboratory. Most often, she works in those of the funeral directors. It is now very rare to go home as the legislation governing the workplace is strict. “We need a lot of space to handle the body, but also a forklift. A water point must be nearby, we sometimes find ourselves faced with unpleasant things like blood. And afterwards, you need a good ventilation to avoid bathing in the smell of chemicals”, emphasizes Megane.

“An infinitely beautiful profession”

“It’s an infinitely beautiful job, we take care of people until the end”, assures the embalmer. Far from the erroneous vision of a gloomy profession, embalming helps the family in such painful moments. During her young career, Megane has faced a few complicated situations. Recently, she had to do makeup for a four-month-old baby. “It’s very difficult, especially since for children, it’s rarely natural deaths”, hardly recognizes the embalmer. There are also suicides or accidents that are not easy to manage. “Sometimes, during the treatment, I visualize the last moments of the person. We know if the person left in pain or not. A very sick person will carry the stigmata on his body”, admits the embalmer. Accident victims, too, are complicated deaths. “Sometimes it’s necessary to reconstruct part of the face with wax, I haven’t had to do that yet,” says Megane. She has nevertheless already worked with people who have suffered accidents: “we see the article in the newspaper and we say to ourselves that it is terrible. Then we have to do the treatment and we know that it will be very expected because a lot of people will want to gather, “she says.

When you have such a difficult job, it’s important to be able to confide in someone. “It’s true that we learn to shield ourselves, but it is necessary to be able to externalize. My spouse helps me a lot with that. I also have a colleague whom I call regularly. It is not always easy, but you don’t have to keep everything,” says Megane.

Megane constantly keeps her two suitcases of gear in her car.

Megane constantly keeps her two suitcases of gear in her car.
DDM Marc Salvet

So when Megane is in treatment, she focuses on technique, to avoid focusing on emotion. A knot in the stomach can invade her when she is in contact with the family, often in tears. If Megane rarely meets the bereaved, the funeral directors often send her thanks. In reality, she meets few people through her job. “We are the profession of the shadow of the funeral”, she jokes lightly. Knowing how to be alone is a quality required to exercise this profession. “We are on the road all day, alone in the lab with the deceased… We are alone with the work, if we can’t do something, no one will come to help us,” says Megane. A certain maturity is therefore necessary, but also a strength of character: “we face death all day”.

Studies to become an embalmer

To become an embalmer, you must either go through a private school or one of the two public schools that issue a DUT in embalming (Lyon and Angers universities). Megane Monteil has chosen a private school. First you have to learn the theory for a year. “It’s quite difficult,” says Megane. Then she passed a national competition. “We are 350 to enter, but only 60 are selected”, indicates the twenty-something. Then, you have to complete a one-year internship. And this Lotoise did it in Brittany, “so that the embalmers who were going to assess me were not future colleagues”, she slips. In the end, around fifty students graduated. In the Lot, there are two or three to practice this profession.

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