Oscar Alvarez has always been interested in death. He was five or six years old when his neighbor was shot. When the police left, Oscar peeked into the room and saw the remains of the body. After that, he remembers asking his mom about death:
“What happens after this?”
She said, “Well, you have a soul. It’s like a little butterfly in your stomach and once you die, it’s gonna go.”
I said, “Where’s it gonna go?”
And she said, “It will go up in the air into the sky to heaven, and we’ll be happy for ever.”
“So that was the end of that. But it was always a question in my mind ever since I could remember, and is even now. I thought it would get easier, but it hasn’t really. We just don’t know until we hit that part of life. But we will find out. Eventually.”
After graduating from high school, Oscar started working as a janitor at a funeral home. He wanted to “see what goes on, learn the business, and then go to school. I wanted to know if this was for me.” Oscar decided it was the right path for him and attended Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service in Houston, TX. He is now a funeral director and embalmer at Darling-Mouser Funeral Home in his hometown of Brownsville, TX.
In what might seem like an unlikely combination, Oscar is also painter.
“It’s my release from work. I paint whatever comes to mind. Whatever has been interesting in my mind for that day or whatever has been depressing. I don’t like to plan the painting that much because then it doesn’t have any meaning for me. It’s almost spontaneous.”
You can see some of Oscar’s work on his website.
Oscar’s interview was recorded in partnership with the Brownsville Historical Association.