Nathan Morris says he’s the last person you’d ever want to see.
“No one exactly loves the undertaker and says,‘ Hey man, thank you for taking care of the embalming! “” Morris jokes.
The 37-year-old native of Owensboro, Kentucky, who says that if you’ve been there, you get a gold star, is a funeral home, musician, and owner of 10 funeral homes in two states. Morris is challenging stereotypes about what it means to work in the death business and getting a TikTok of 320,000 followers along the way.
Morris’ success as the owner of a funeral and funeral home is due in part to his mastery and commitment, but what makes him an anomaly is the sincere way he talks about the day-to-day movements of his work, a schedule that most people would not understand. But Morris argues, why not share?
Morris works with dead people and pain all all day, all year. And yet, given the frankness and grace with which he speaks of his line of work, if you didn’t listen to him enough, you might not even know what he’s doing. Because here’s the truth, according to someone who knows: death, an inevitability, doesn’t have to be that heavy.
“People, especially in this country, see death almost as voluntary,” Morris says. “We spend a lot of time and money to look younger, to be younger, to stay younger. But we will grow old and die. It will happen to us all. I have decided to pull that curtain. And show people how incredibly cared for they are.”
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“I loved knowing how things worked.”
Morris entered the funeral business indirectly. He found his first vocation when he developed a fascination with garbage trucks when a 7-year-old boy was waiting for the school bus. “That garbage truck stopped, and these two guys grabbed their backs and jumped, ran for a rudder, pushed it against the truck and pulled a lever. I wanted to be the person who was the lever, “he says.
Morris loved watching the truck and seeing the perfect choreography as the two men jumped, threw, and got up. Although her career took a different direction, it is ultimately rooted in what first caught her attention: cause and effect.
“I loved knowing how things worked. And as a kid I loved looking at this guy in gloves and [when] he pulled that lever, raised something, and created a different result, ”Morris says.
The innate gravitation toward understanding how things work, especially systems that feel taboo or saved, is at the core of what drives Morris ’passion for his career, as well as his commitment to reinventing hundreds — arguably thousands. years of tradition in an industry. this is not built precisely for change.
So where did his zeal for end-of-life care begin? With love.
Morris married the funeral home business. His wife Megan’s family had been operating a funeral home in Owensboro since 1902. Megan was the only one of his six siblings who wanted to stay in the business, and Morris quickly found a similar spark for the industry. The two set out to not only cater to the unique location, but also expand into Kentucky and Indiana (yes, funeral homes can also be chains).
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Like anything, the path to mastery requires time, attention, and commitment. Morris spent three years making calls every day, immersing himself completely in the running and complexities of the business.
“I wanted to be the most amazing undertaker because when it came time to train staff one day, I would know that what I was saying and teaching was true,” Morris says.
“Everyone has been or is young, not everyone has been old.”
What began as a single, family funeral home quickly became 10 in just five years, and Morris ’TikTok fame followed a similar trajectory.
While touring the Owensboro Funeral Home to local high school students in February, Morris offered the students a stage: “I said,‘ Now you’re Mr. Smith, you’re 82 and you’ve just died. ”And the eyes of the teens are huge because everyone has been or is young, but not everyone has been old, ”Morris says. “But then I took them through the process of getting into our care and what happens behind the curtain, what would happen to them if they were Mr. Smith.”
The head of the company’s social media received an excerpt from Morris ’lecture on film while giving colloquial instructions to the class on the biological inevitability of death. The whole scene, at a distance, looks and sounds like any other kind of biology or anatomy. “Everyone who dies, dies with their mouths open; there’s no way to avoid it,” Morris says in the video, followed by, “Everyone’s good, honestly?” He proceeds to show the students, with care and honesty, how to close his mouth. “There’s nothing dirty; there’s no blood,” Morris tells the class, “There’s nothing crazy. You’re probably making it crazier than it is.”
The social media manager asked him if he could post the video on TikTok.
Morris didn’t think much of it and said, “Yeah, why not?”
But then came the views and the fans, curious people to know who really cares about us and our loved ones when we go.
That the video went viral is no big surprise. The internal workings of a system like this, which is both mysterious and essential, are usually kept under lock and key. And when one day the door suddenly opens, exposing everything we don’t know, curiosity takes over us.
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The social impact has been powerful, Morris says, especially when followers tell him how they have altered their careers to follow suit.
“There was one [follower] it was like “I was in nursing school but I dropped out of school, and now I’m going to mortuary school because of you,” Morris adds.
When you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, you rarely hear “morticist,” “funeral director,” or “junk.” But maybe that’s the point: how can you know what you want to be when you still don’t know how it works, let alone still exist? Morris ’sincere charm illuminates the importance of not being what you do, but why you do it and how it makes you feel.
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Like any professional career, Morris ’work comes with peaks and valleys. When the pandemic devastated the nation and left millions in mourning, Morris and his team went through some of their toughest days. “My mental health skyrocketed during that time, and seeing the staff overwhelmed was horrible,” he says.
Although he loves his job, there are dark days, and Morris believes it is crucial to have outings for especially hard patches, which for him have always been music. When Morris went through the most difficult period of his career to date, he channeled that energy into making music, and the result was an album that he says is what he is most proud of so far, with his upcoming tour date in in August. “The new album came out of being so devastated by this pandemic, but in the end, it inspired this record.”
Compartmentation is sometimes necessary, but it does not mean that different pieces of life cannot, from time to time, come together in harmony. And when things seem heavy, sharing stories with your TikTok audience helps Morris rediscover his passion for creativity and makes his days brighter.
Nathan Morris is a funeral director, funeral director, musician, TikTok star and, at its core, a creative. There is enough space, he says, to have many things; all you have to do is make the room. Morris’s day-to-day is anything but conventional, but if you’re sure of anything, it’s the power to let your passions blend, dark and light, to create an honest, sweet life.