When a loved one passes away you usually have the option of having an open casket so friends and family may pay respect to the body. Human bodies once deceased will begin to decompose almost immediately. If you want to have an open casket then you must embalm the body, which will slow the decomposition of the corpse. The procedure will also help to make your loved one presentable, they'll look as though they are sleeping (the body and face need to be intact). Embalming must be done by licensed professional.
Preparing the Body
Once the family has made the decision to carry out the embalming, the body is transported to the funeral home. The embalmer will complete important paperwork: documenting the condition of the body, listing bruises, marks, cuts or discolourations. The embalmer will also remove and document everything that is on the body: clothing, jewellery, bandages, medical needles. The embalmer will then clean the body with a potent disinfectant. If the corpse has rigor mortis, which stiffens the muscles of the body, the embalmer will move and massage the limbs and muscles to loosen up the body.
Preparing the Face
The embalmer will work on setting the face into a natural appearance. It is important to close the eyes of the deceased, this can be done by placing a small amount of cotton between the eye and eyelid and sealing it with a cream that will help keep them closed. If the eyeballs have sunk into the skull the embalmer can use plastic caps on the eyeballs to appear more natural. The mouth is then set by tying the jaws together. This is to prevent the jaw and mouth from falling open or looking slack. The bottom jaw is sewn to the top jaw through the gums and the nostrils. The embalmer can then use a "mouth former," which is like the plastic eye caps. It is shaped like a mouth and it has special grips that hold the mouth. A little cream is applied to hold it in place and prevent the drying out and cracking around the mouth.
The next process is the arterial embalming, which slows down the decomposition of the body. The blood from the body is drained completely and then an embalming fluid is injected into the arterial system. The embalming fluid consists of water, formaldehyde and other chemicals. The arterial embalming process mainly affects the skin, muscles and organs, but the embalmer must take into consideration the things that are within the organs such as gases, urine and bile, which all begin their own decomposition process. Therefore the embalmer must complete a cavity treatment in which he suctions out the fluids from the internal organs. The torso is then filled with a stronger mix of embalming fluid.
Hair and Body
The body itself has been prepared so now the embalmer works on the outside appearance of the body. The body and hair are washed. The embalmer will try to mask any open sores, cuts, bruises or skin discolourations. He will apply make-up to the face, neck and hands. The make-up should look natural and is just used to make the skin appear normal. Cosmetics can also be used to rebuild and restore physical features. Make-up can then be applied to women. The fingernails are trimmed and can be painted and the hair is styled. The body is then dressed in the outfit selected by the family. Once the body and face are prepared it is placed within the casket and positioned in a pose.
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