Funeral Industry News

WNBA Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles is studying to be an embalmer

July 6, 2016

WNBA Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles is studying to be an embalmer

Article originally published by: SB Nation

Reigning WNBA champion and Finals MVP Sylvia Fowles already knows how to work against bodies six feet over. Now she’s learning how to prepare bodies for six feet under as an embalmer.

The nine-year vet wants to start her second career after she retires, something she’s been dreaming about since she was five years old. Fowles, the Minnesota Lynx center, has already started taking online classes to get her degree in mortuary science through American Academy McAllister Institute in New York.

Her postgame ambition has added to Fowles’ already heavy load. If the Lynx contend for a championship again, the WNBA season won’t end until October and Fowles spends her “offseasons” playing in the Chinese Women’s Basketball Association. When the rest of the WNBA gets a month-long Olympic break at the end of July through most of August, Fowles will be in Rio competing. Yet she still manages to find time to study up on things like ethics in regard to the deceased body.

“I get up for treatment in the morning, eat breakfast while I’m at the gym,” said Fowles. “We have practice. Depending on what kind of day it is we have to stay after practice to do X/O stuff. Then I come home, shower, eat and I literally study for like five hours and then I’ve got to get up and repeat it the next day.”

She’s taking two classes this semester: anatomy and ethics, and is required to take two quizzes per week on top of other tests and assignments all while traveling and playing as many as four games per week. It’s a schedule she takes on because of a longstanding crusade prompted by one of her first interactions with death.

Though Fowles jokingly called herself a “creepy kid” growing up, the idea wasn’t drawn from a gothic teen stage or a horror movie, rather a chilling memory of a relative lost too soon. Her grandmother, just in her mid-50s, passed away from lung cancer. Fowles recalled saying goodbye.

“My older siblings and cousins thought it was a good idea to give her a last kiss,” said Fowles. “As we gave her a last kiss we were on our way to the burial and my lips itched the whole way there. I always felt like they did something wrong, so I told my mom that this was something I wanted to do. I want to work with dead people and make sure they do it right.”

Embalmers work to drain the fluids from cadavers and replace them with formaldehyde — a fluid meant to preserve the body — and they then dress the deceased. The experience pictures to be less than pleasurable, but in Fowles’ mind the work brings closure to mourning families.

“When I originally wanted to do it I just wanted to do hair, makeup and dress, but since I started taking classes and getting all the details I want to do the embalming part,” said Fowles. “I want to be that person to get all the good stuff out and make sure they’re seen as something good, that last image for their family to be a happy home.”

To say the least, it’s an unusual career path.

“I don’t really think twice about it,” said Fowles. “I think it’s normal for me. I like to see how other people react, but to me it’s normal.” Even if her workload is anything but.

Fowles had a test the night before a late May win in New York against the Liberty. The morning following a win over the Mystics in Washington D.C. Fowles had four assignments due before her team flew back to Minnesota that afternoon. Amidst a week where her team traveled to Seattle, Los Angeles, back home to Minnesota and then down to D.C. again for a road game followed by a trip to the White House to celebrate her team’s 2015 championship, she studied for a final on July 6. Fowles has another final shortly before she leaves for Rio on July 25.


Image Credit: Jordan Johnson/Getty Images