During the week Patricia Rapier nurtures bonsai, cultivating them in her small greenhouse and making house calls to sick plant patients.
“People receive bonsai as gifts and feel guilty when they kill them. I can usually bring bonsai back from death’s door,” she says with a tinge of sadness in her voice.
Oddly enough, Ms. Rapier’s second job is affiliated with death, too. She works as the weekend obituary clerk at a funeral home.
“The job is clerical. I am not writing the full story of a person’s life, like you read when someone famous dies. I edit the copy in the form of an announcement we send to print media,” she explains.
“I work with the family of the loved one,” says Ms. Rapier, "I have developed a serene patience from working with bonsai, which I think is comforting to the bereaved."
Sometimes next-of-kin is not available, so she acts as sleuth to research the details of the person's life. When details of the deceased remain a mystery, the announcements are short and list only name, birth and death days, and where they went to church.
But her real passion lies in bonsai, the art of Japanese dwarf trees, planted in a pot of specific proportions and shapes.
“I’m a professional grower who is skilled in shaping aesthetics and techniques, artistry that has been perfected over hundreds of years,” explains Ms. Rapier.
She had the privilege to study at the Ōmiya Bonsai Village and is a third generation member of the American Bonsai Society.