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Utah woman finds her life’s calling in death

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Chelsea Tolman found her calling in life… in death.

She was working at a junkyard in Las Vegas when two coworkers lost people close to them.

Chelsea Tolman is a mortician, embalmer and blogger.

“They were always talking about the funeral director, what the funeral director did, what the funeral director said,” Tolman says. “Who was this funeral director?”

So she called a funeral home and talked to an embalmer about the profession and the next thing she knew, she was enrolled at the Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Service.

Now after working more than a decade as a mortician and embalmer, she is writing a blog called Mbalmer Girl, stories of her experiences in the funeral industry.

She writes about sad deaths, funeral pyres, embalmers’ practical jokes and what funeral directors deal with every day.

“A lot of people don’t understand what it’s like and how your death and your family experiences affect us,” said Tolman.

She says prior to the early 20th century, preparing bodies for burial was often something handled by the deceased’s family, usually by women. She says it just felt right when she was called upon to embalm her own grandfather.

Chelsea Tolman with her grandfather.

“It was a great honor, absolutely. It was an experience I would never take back,” she said. “It was the last thing I could do for my grandfather and he wanted me there and he loved that I was gonna be taking care of his body.”

“It feels like that’s what I’m supposed to be doing is taking care of my family,” she said.

People don’t talk about death but, Tolman says, they should.

“It’s a taboo subject, it’s not something that we embrace,” she said. “It’s scary and we’re very far removed from it so we don’t talk about it.”

“It’s not as scary as people think. It’s not as gross as people think. It’s not as harsh as people think. Death can be a beautiful thing.”

She says one place to talk about death is a worldwide informal forum called Death Café. People eat, drink and talk about death. You can get more information at DeathCafe.com.

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