“From the time I was a young girl, I wanted to be a mortician because I was so fascinated with making things pretty.”
Meet Bianca Dougan, a BVIslander who said she is the territory’s sole mortician.
“I like to help people, and being a mortician gives me the opportunity to help families and to help people. I help to keep that last memory, so from meeting the families to helping them make the arrangements of the funeral to embalming the body, dressing them up, casketing the body and just giving them that last view, that last sight of their loved one. So me getting that satisfaction out there of easing their minds so to speak, makes me feel at ease, so that’s how I help them through that difficult process,” Dougan said in an interview with BVI Platinum News.
Dougan, a Belle Vue resident, is the mother of two sons, aged 10 and two. She is also a science teacher at the Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS), a professional cheesecake maker, and she also hosts yearly camps for children between ages 4 and 18.
The family-oriented lover of dance, pageantry, cheerleading and sailing, graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2011 and returned home to contribute to the territory in her field of expertise.
Upon her return home, Dougan said, her line of work was not so easily accepted by her family.
“In the beginning, they (family) were a bit skeptical, but they have always encouraged me to pursue what I always wanted to do, and they have always been by my side,” she said.
She added, “When I had just returned to the BVI my mom was so freaked out, she would have me take off my clothes outside and put them in a special bag, and say “, You cannot wash your clothes in our washer and drier”. She was really freaked out.”
Dougan said as time passed, her mother came to accept her career choice.
“My mom would always tell me that there is always something for somebody.”
For Dougan, her fulfilling career choice has a few memorable moments that will remain etched in her mind.
The first moment was during her employment stint in the United States when she had to deal with an unusual case of an older man who died at home.
“He had a cat, and it was there for a couple of days, and the cat got hungry, and the cat began eating him. So when he came to our funeral home, his hands especially, I know for the viewing, the most important parts it would be like your hands and your face, so my boss at the time he was like, “I am going to challenge you to put back this man’s hands. He isn’t going to wear any gloves; you have to fix back his hands.” So here I was fixing back a hand that was eaten by his cat,” she recalled with a broad smile.
The second unforgettable time was when she had a bad dream about a body she worked on. She shared the story with us while trying to keep the youngsters in her care in check and keeping the noise level down during one of her camps at the Althea Scatliffe Primary School.
“I wouldn’t say I had a nightmare, but one time, one of the bodies that I dealt with he stuck with me for a little bit. I had a dream, and it felt as if he was holding me down, and I say ‘let go’, and he left me. That was like the only one. I think because I saw him every single day that I went into the funeral home, so he had a whole week viewing, so I think it was me seeing him every single day of the week that’s probably why I saw him in my dream,” Dougan shared.
She explained that she has mostly dealt with natural deaths of older folks in the territory and sought to explain her work at the morgue.
“It all depends on the situation and the type of case. So normally, with embalming the autopsied bodies, that’s the ones the coroner has to investigate and do the cause of death, and we have those who have died from natural causes; those two are very different. So with the natural cause, I would normally inject [the body] at one point, and that takes about two to three hours. When it comes to the autopsied bodies now, that would take a lot more time, a lot more stitching and sewing.”
As a science teacher at the ESHS, Dougan said many of her students have been fascinated by her work and have expressed their interest in following in her footsteps.
“So I am hoping that in the future, I am able to have a platform for them to do such, probably get the government to introduce some kind of studies here at our local college,” she said.
In the meantime, Dougan said the career path is worthwhile; however, she urged persons interested in being a mortician that they should not do it for the money,” because at the end it is always about the family.”