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By Annie Forrester

Licensed Funeral Director/Licensed Embalmer

I'm a mortician at a funeral home in the Northwest. I love my job, but it can be insanely stressful. I not only embalm bodies, but I dress, cosmetize, and casket them. I meet with families to arrange and coordinate funerals, memorial services, and graveside services. Then, I direct those services as a funeral director, including driving the hearse, in procession, to the cemetery. I also go on "calls." This means that I pick up bodies at the hospital, nursing home, medical examiner (following an autopsy), or at the decedent's actual home. That can be intense; sometimes people don't want to let us take their loved one, and they wail and cling to the body.

Of course, sometimes the bodies are not in the most favorable conditions. I have an iron stomach. Of course, if you are holding green, decomposed intestines in your hands and cutting into people's bodies, you kind of have to have a strong stomach! Just over a year ago, I also used to run a crematory retort. That means I prepared the bodies for cremation, cremated them, and then processed their remains. 

Embalming Secrets

Step One in the Embalming Process:

First things first. Suiting up. As you can see from the pictures of me, we wear lots of protective gear. The picture doesn't even show the full extent of it. We also have surgical masks that we usually wear to protect our mouths and noses. The suit is essential. Blood, embalming fluid, and other assorted liquids get everywhere. And believe me, the times that I don't wear the face shield are the times that I splash blood on my face (do that once and you definitely wear the face shield for the next embalming).

All right. Embalming. First I position the body on blocks. The head rests on a concave head block. The feet are elevated on a body block. We typically put a body block under the butt and one under the shoulders, as well. The arms get propped up on blocks so that they are crossed on their chest or belly...

Continued in print issue...

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