Elle Watmough. Picture: Network News
Elle Watmough. Picture: Network News

Reason behind hostie’s big career change

Career pivots happen for all sorts of reasons.

In the case of Elle Watmough it was the tragedy of losing her mother that saw her work life drastically change course. Two weeks after saying her final goodbyes to her mum at the local funeral home, Elle started work there.

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I met Elle many years ago. She had a big heart and a smile that lit up the room. You might have come across that smile too; with a full red lip on at 30,000 feet. Elle worked as an air hostess for Virgin and loved her job. It was the perfect role for such a people person, Elle has a wonderful nature about her. But after experiencing a perforated eardrum, she had to call time on her days in the air.

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Back on the ground, Elle married partner Anthony and began working in the retail sector. The couple tried for many years to conceive, and finally after much heartache and almost four years Elle fell pregnant. In a bitter twist of fate, it was just after precious daughter Jagger was born that Elle's mum Leona was diagnosed with cancer.

 

Tragedy led to a total career change for Elle Watmough
Tragedy led to a total career change for Elle Watmough

 

Having spent time with Elle and her Mum I saw first-hand how close they were; like best friends or 'soulmates' as Elle says.

When Leona tragically lost her battle with cancer, Elle knew that she had to get back to work to keep busy. A role came up at the funeral home where her mum had been looked after, and she put her hand up for the job. Her new employer suggested it might be too soon, but Elle was adamant and within weeks she was being shown around her new workplace.

She now believes that the job opening up was meant to be; but looking was it too soon after her mum passed? Maybe. One thing she does know is that her years spent in the funeral industry showed her how well looked after her mum had been as she saw first-hand the love and care that goes on.

"I believe the reason that I ended up in that industry was to know how well my mum was looked after. I can now can live out the rest of my days knowing that from the moment that she passed in the hospital; to going to the hospital mortuary; to being brought into the funeral home; to being dressed; to being put in a coffin. My mum was looked after with respect the entire process."

Elle goes on to explain how she took real comfort from her new role: "I became friends with the individuals that looked after her, and that's the silver lining for me, I could turn around to my sister and say, mum was really well taken care of. Working at the funeral home, we had a rule that you treat every single person that's passed like their family was standing in the room."

 

 

I found my podcast interview with Elle fascinating. She was open and honest about facing death daily; opening up about an industry that is shrouded in mystery in a very gentle and respectful way.

Wearing many hats during her time at the funeral home; from funeral assistant, hearse driver and being part of the mortuary run team, Elle demystified many of my questions. No, coffins are never re-used, only one body at a time is cremated per oven, and while you can be buried with almost anything you want, you can't be cremated with certain things that explode (pacemakers have to be removed and no beer bottles). Culturally, death is dealt with many ways; from closed casket services, to loved ones displayed at home, Buddhist services where hundreds of people come through to pay their respects, to the Japanese tradition known as the 'Bone picking ceremony'.

Did Elle listen to music when driving the hearse, I wanted to know? No, she felt silence was more fitting, and she often talked to the person she was driving. She explained that she was often the last person to see the deceased as she screwed the coffin lid down; and she saw that as an honour.

As Elle explained, dealing with death on a daily basis really makes you appreciate every day you have here; and how important it is to hold those you love close.

- Be sure to subscribe to So, I Quit My Day Job on your favourite podcast app and check out whimn.com.au every Tuesday for new episodes. You can also follow along on Instagram @SoIQuitMyDayJob

- This story originally appeared on whimn.com.au and is reproduced with permission



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