Life and death with a Pinoy mortician

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 31, 2014

HAYWARD, Calif. – It’s inevitable. It’s certain. It’s death.

And death is Jim Navarro’s business.

This Makati-born Pinoy is a retired mortician who now owns a mortuary transportation company.

He and his drivers are on call 24-hours, seven-days a week to pick up the dead for mortuaries.

“Some just passed away,” said Navarro. “Some passed away as long as three weeks, four weeks ago. So the body is not in good shape. You have maggots. You have the stench.”

He describes the smell of a dead body as that of raw chicken, and the smell of a rotting corpse as a stench so bad you could taste it for days.

“My first body, the one I did, I was really freaked out,” said the retired mortician. “Sometimes, when I’m embalming, I feel like someone is beside me. My hair would just stand up for no reason.”

So why would anyone be in a profession that many would consider creepy?

Navarro says that while he’s always been fascinated with mortuary science even as a kid, he finds this field very lucrative.

The job typically requires an associate’s degree and a state license.

U.S. labor statistics show that morticians could earn as much as $80,000 dollars a year.

While Jim Navarro’s business is focused on death, he says it has actually taught him a lot about life.

Navarro, who has served as an elected official in Union City for close to two decades, says it’s allowed him to help more people.

“Being able to help people who don’t have money, try to get them discounts to send them their loved-ones off; that’s very rewarding for me,” said Navarro.

Navarro says his job pushes him to value life’s precious moments and to prepare for what’s inevitable, for what’s certain.

“You have to hug your children, your spouse everyday,” he said. “Life is too short. You never know when you’re going to go.”

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