Ever wonder what happens after you or a loved one dies it’s time to embalm a body? Some people can look so peaceful while lying in their caskets being viewed. Others tend to look like a weird, almost clay-like version of themselves. We can think of embalmers as stylists or makeup artists, with an “I’m also going to cut you open and fill you with fluid and goo” kind of vibe.
However, the job of an embalmer is much more than just filling your insides with the pink gunk that makes you look a little less dead for a short period of time. The job of an embalmer is, indeed, much more than just that. This job actually has them fill you, dress you, plug your holes and do your hair and makeup. Can someone say full-service!
Therefore, here are seven things most people didn’t know embalmers do to get your decomposing corpse back to where it almost was before you were called back to the mothership.
The undertaker covers up the privates. They call it “laying them to sleep.” The deceased, lain down flat on their backs and undressed, but they make sure to still cover your private parts. It seems very respectful, until you learn that they will also put a diaper on you before they dress you to stop any leakage from happening after you are dressed.
They check your vitals—AGAIN! (As if it wasn’t bad enough that you have made it all the way to the embalming table.) There is a reason they do this one … last … time. The mortician checks vitals to make absolutely sure you are D-E-A-D, and then they begin to work.
The embalmer wires or sews the jaw shut. Sad, I know, but your eyes and mouth don’t just stay closed; again, there ain’t nothing pretty about being dead. There are two different methods they use for this. (Let’s call it a preference for whoever will be working on your body.)
First: wired shut. For this, they use a needle injector, and even though a needle injector is used, the material is really a small pointy pin with a wire attached to it. With the deceased lying on the prep room table, they pull back your upper and lower lips, and then the needle injector shoots the needle into the gums, with two in the top gums and two in the bottom gums. Then the embalmer pulls up the jaw and secures it into place by twisting the wires until the jaw is tight. Now, there is the risk of the pin or wire ripping through the tissue and the mouth popping open, so some instead prefer the sewing method.
The sewing, or the “suture method,” is a little more brutal, or so it sounds once the steps are broken down. The embalmer sticks the needle behind the bottom teeth and through the bottom of the chin. Then they will turn the needle around and back up through the same hole, this time coming out the front of the teeth. This allows them to gently pull the jaw up and into place. Then the needle goes up into the left nostril through the septum and down through the right nostril, bringing the jaw together for tying it into position. Super simple!
They glue your eyes closed. This step, including the final closing of the mouth (finally), comprises “setting the face.” They use either super glue or small, plastic inner-eye caps with tiny grippers to grab the eyelids, ensuring those eyes never pop open again.
They add color to the embalming fluid. Embalmers will add reds and pinks to the fluid to give your skin a rosier shade.
They add tissue builder to the face and hands, so you don’t look so shriveled. Just like the ladies on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, you can finally get some of those injections to plump you up without being judged.
Multiple kinds of embalming actually happen at this time. Arterial embalming, cavity embalming, hypodermic embalming and surface embalming. (Sounds fancy!)
Lotion and makeup. OK, we all know the corpse gets makeup. But technicians sometimes use wax, plaster of Paris and other cosmetics to reconstruct features. This gives the body a more natural look.
So, if you decide that a funeral and an open casket is the way for you, just know that most, if not all, of these steps will be performed upon your body. One hopes that you just look like a dead version of yourself once the embalmer completes the work. If not, then maybe you will even look just a little better than you did before this whole dying business happened.