Man hopes funeral home tour steers kids from trouble

January 6, 2012 6:57:25 PM PST
A community activist and coach is using an unusual technique to shock kids into staying out of trouble. He gives tours of an Oakland funeral home, giving the young people a look at death up close.

It's a view of death few young people see.

"Got that smell? That's death," Oakland coach and community activist Todd Walker said.

Walker has attended more than 200 funerals, many of them for young people he once coached.

Walker gives mortuary tours to young people to show what happens after death, like that of young Hiram Lawrence late last year.

On Friday's tour, all the kids were all from Oakland. They grew up in housing projects. One has lost seven friends to street violence. And they are all explorers or cadets, pursuing a career in law enforcement.

"I don't think anyone who's in a gang or all this other stuff knows what's going to happen in the long run," Chanri Kim said.

The tour includes a rather vivid description of what happens during the embalming process.

"The purpose of embalming is to keep the body intact," funeral director Earl Starnes said. "Without embalming, your body would decompose rapidly."

Besides seeing caskets, the young people view the inside of the embalming room and a body, wrapped in cloth inside a cooler. They also see a body bag.

"Once size fits all...this is it, right here," Starnes said.

They are impressions that will stay with the young people for a very long time.

"The whole you're not just dead, you're in a process to become more dead to be shown to your family," Zarahia Perdomo said.

"If you're going on a wrong path, you know this is probably where you're going to end up; it's not a joke, it's not a game, it's life," Ahmed Abdelrahman said.