22-year-old embalmer had to handle case of her colleague who died just after meeting her

Cara Wong
The Straits Times
2 April 2017

It is the hardest when it is someone you know. That has been the experience of Ms Nicole Chong, 22, one of Singapore's youngest embalmers.

To be more specific, she is an embalmer-in-training, as she has not been officially certified yet. But that has not stopped her from handling more than 500 bodies under the supervision of a more experienced embalmer, in her three years as a trainee in the profession.

She works at her brother's business, the eight-year-old funeral company Serenity Casket and Funerals.

The toughest case she handled was that of her colleague, hearse driver Lim Swee Huat, who died of a heart attack in 2015 at the age of 62.

On the afternoon before he died, he had driven her to McDonald's for lunch. That very night, he was on the embalming table.

Embalming is the process of preserving the deceased with chemicals for various purposes. For funerals, it is so that the bodies have a more life-like appearance.

Ms Chong has no formal training in the field - she holds a diploma in general studies from private institute Kaplan. Instead, she picked up the skills on the job under the guidance of her sister-in-law, Ms Sarah Ang, 32, who received her certification in embalming from New Zealand's Wellington Institute of Technology.

Her brother, Mr Elson Chong, 32, is the company's founder. His wife, Ms Ang, was the one who got Ms Chong interested in the job.

Ms Chong's parents own their own funeral home.

Ms Chong picked up skills such as manoeuvring and draining blood from a body from her sister-in-law. Eventually, she hopes to go to New Zealand to get a certificate in embalming.

While she is passionate about her job, her social circle may not be as open-minded. Friends who are "slightly more superstitious won't want to talk about my job".

"But I'll try to share my interest with them," she says.

The Straits Times

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.