Advice from Michael Laherty’s grandmother was the underlying motivation for him to take up dancing.
Seated in his dining room that has an incredible view of the city, Mr Laherty speaks about the positive impact dancing has on his life.
“Dancing is not for everybody, but everybody has to try it,” he said.
His youngest daughter Elly has been dancing for nine years, but Mr Laherty said he never went because he thought it wasn’t for him.
“About three years ago I started to become interested in it,” he said.
He pauses for a moment after being asked if dancing is an outlet from his job as a mortuary transporter.
“I wouldn’t say that three months ago, but now I would because when you dance you can’t think, not that I think about my job,” he said.
“This might sound weird, but it is good to see happy people.”
Mr Laherty believes he is wired differently to most people and that’s why he is able to work as a mortuary transporter without the job affecting his state of mind.
Police usually call Mr Laherty and only give him a name and address, but that’s the way he prefers it because he said having names and circumstances complicated things.
“Your imagination is worse than what you’ll ever see,” he said. Naturally, there are a few cases that he will never forget.
“I did one job up in Prospect that stays with me forever. It’s really sad,” he said.
“The guy said to me, and I will never forget it, he said ‘I don’t know what to wear tomorrow’ and I said ‘what do you mean George’.
“He said ‘for 65 years she’s been putting out my clothes and I don’t know what to do’.
“How do you answer that. That’s what got to me, the fact his whole world had gone - not tragically, but not unexpectedly either.”
In those situations, Mr Laherty said he felt like a thief.
“You feel like you’ve gone and stolen their most prize possession,” he said.
Walking into someone’s life at their lowest time is sad but also rewarding.
“To know that I can bring that sort of comfort to people and that’s why you do it,” he said.
“You’re walking in at someone’s lowest time, you point them in the right direction and then you vanish into the darkness.”
Putting people at ease is an important part of Mr Laherty’s, but he is cautious not to befriend people.
“Our job is to take care of their loved one who has passed,” he said.
Mr Laherty has been in the funeral industry for 27 years and has worked as a mortuary transporter for 17 years.
In that time he has retrieved more than 15,000 bodies.
At 16, Mr Laherty’s grandmother told him he needed to learn to dance because it was an important life skill.
“I did a couple of debutante balls because my nan was mayoress of Broadmeadows and that was fun, but then girls and horses and cars and everything else came along and I just didn’t do it,” he said.
“I should’ve, but I didn’t.”
His recent health scare pushed him over the line from wanting to learn to dance to taking the leap.
“It is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.
After watching a few lessons he found himself immersed in every element of dancing.
“There is so much to think about; music, timing, steps, where’s my wife, which foot goes next, so it helps clear the decks,” he said.
Mr Laherty and his wife Janine are competing in the 73rd Australian DanceSport Championship in Melbourne from December 7 to 9.
The couple have been seriously training since March because they hoped to compete in the Tasmanian DanceSport Championship in August, but they were sadly unable to participate.
“The doctor’s didn’t clear me, which was a shame because there were only two other competitors in our class, so I was guaranteed a bronze medal,” he jokingly said.
But the couple did not let that stop them, instead they continued training with a new goal: to compete in the Masters Recreational Latin division in Melbourne.
The Lahertys are very superstitious because of Mr Laherty’s job. If they’re planning a barbecue, the family refers to it as a grill.
“We don’t mention any towns on the East Coast, we normally say ‘the place where the sun rises’, because if we do, we will end up there in the next 24 hours,” he said.
His phone rings about 15 minutes into the interview and we all exchange looks, wondering if our conversation will be abruptly ended by the call of duty.
But we weren’t. It was a friend calling to check in. Without prompting, Mr Laherty began talking about the demands of his work.
“Things about my job; phone rings and you’re working and you need say ‘working’ and hang up,” he said.
“We live our life and work interrupts, we don’t live our life for work.”
Surrounding himself with people who understand the unplanned and unpredictable nature of Mr Laherty’s line of work was necessary.
“You need to find people who understand my life because I don’t have a normal life.”
A blonde at a party is how Mr Laherty ended up in the funeral industry.
“I was drunk, hiding whisky in a washing machine. I was talking to this woman, this blonde at the party, and she turned around and said ‘with a sense of humour like yours, you should work in the funeral industry’.”