When Shawntel Newton appeared on The Bachelor a few seasons ago she brought her date home to Chico to meet her kinfolk and to tour the family business. "I wanted to be sure," she writes, "he was comfortable enough to marry someone who's a funeral director and embalmer. I know, I know, I know, what was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that the situation we were already in was hard enough. I had been on this soul-searching journey to fall in love. I was vulnerable, tired, scared and excited all at the time time."
After seven or so weeks in production, the reality show came to an end, and so did Shawntel's hope. Though made-for-tv, such programs have real life consequences. She recounts a time of grief but also a growing sense of new opportunities arising, opportunities to share her own heart as a confident yet very human twenty-something woman, but also--and most especially--to talk about her chosen profession. She tells her story in "Final Rose" ($14.95 in paperback from Memoir Books, an imprint of Chico's Heidelberg Graphics). My thanks to Lyon Books in Chico for a review copy.
Born and raised in Chico, the oldest daughter of Ric and Colene Newton, sister to Destiny and Vanessa, Shawntel remembers taking the Myers-Briggs personality test, hitting the "results" button on the computer, and reading "funeral director" on the screen. "Is God playing a joke on me? Did my dad rig this computer? I literally walked to my dorm dumfounded."
Through a number of relationships that didn't quite work out (especially with that one "gassy" guy), Shawntel continues her studies, helping the reader better understand the "business of death" not only from the technical side (pathology, microbiology and more) but the human side as well. Babies die, and so do friends. People die in violent acts and in old age. There are poignant experiences here. "The stories I have shared are difficult and hard," she says, "but also rewarding. I am with families during one of the most crucial times during their life and guide them through not only funeral arrangements, but also the healing process."
Such healing reflects an Easter hope, that one day all things will be put right--and funeral directors won't have any work.