Embalming and More…

 I don’t know if people will find this interesting or if everyone knows this already, but what the hell? I’ll tell you anyway just in case there are curious people reading who want to know exactly what happens when someone dies.

Whether a death happens expectedly or unexpectedly, the funeral home will get a call soon after the person dies. As you know, this can happen any time of the day or night and this means that funeral directors are on-call 24 hours a day. Sorry, but that’s not a job I would want.  Any “on-call” job completely limits your ability to party when you want.  I need scheduled party time. Imagine, its 3am and you’re in a sound sleep. The phone rings, you have to get your bearings, take down information, get dressed in a suit, get in the hearse no matter what the weather was like outside, and go pick up a dead body (no matter what condition it was in)!  That is a fucked up job! But that’s what my dad did to put food on our table and I admire and respect him for that. I wouldn’t do it for my kids. My kids would most likely starve.

When my brother got old enough my dad would make him do it and he can attest to how much it sucks. I’m so glad I never had to do it. I mentioned that I briefly worked for my dad, but I’m not really cut out for that. I was much more cut out to be a cashier at a diner where I could eat free corn muffins all day. The Blue Comet Diner had the best corn muffins, and naturally I made out with the 21 year old Greek manager (I was 15).  I hope all Greeks don’t kiss like that. (shout out to my friend Chris who got me the job and worked there too..miss you!)

Anyway, before anyone can pick up a body, a doctor has to first sign a death certificate. Without one, the body can’t be removed. So, the family would call a doctor, the doctor would call my dad, and sometimes my dad would call the doctor if the family hadn’t done it yet.

Once the doctor signs the death certificate, my dad would pick up the body and bring it back to the morgue. Paperwork is filled out that details a description of any cuts, bruises or discoloration on the body and notes any jewelry and personal items on the person. This is in the event that the family brings a lawsuit against the funeral home.  I mentioned that being sued for mental anguish was always a fear of my dad’s. He was constantly stressed out because knowing how “sue-happy” people are, he always did everything to make sure that wouldn’t happen, but it was a big cause of stress for him.  When our crazy dogs ran downstairs and barked at everyone during a funeral, my dad almost had a heart attack because that’s exactly the kind of thing that people will claim caused them mental anguish.  Like it’s not the dead person causing mental anguish, it’s our crazy dogs.  But it was still funny.

After everything is removed, the body is sprayed with a disinfectant. The next step is to “set” the body in a permanent position because once embalming fluid is put in, it will really be set. The eyes and mouth are sealed shut with glue, and sometimes a little caulk-like stuff will be put in the mouth to give it a pleasing shape and not look sunken in.  Sometimes “eye caps” are placed over the eye balls if the eyes have sunken in too, which sometimes happens.

The embalming begins. Embalming is done by injecting embalming fluid (formaldehyde mostly) into an  artery while blood is being drained out from a vein . In our house, the blood went directly into a big sink and down into the sewer.  By the way, that’s where it always goes, into the sewer system along with all of our other human waste.

Okay, brace yourself because it’s about to get ugly……Next, the fluids of the internal organs have to be suctioned out or bad decomposition will start.  This is done with a trocar. Listen up Hollywood, it’s the same instrument used for lipo suction to suck all your fat out.

All the organs have to be punctured including the stomach, bladder, intestines and lungs, and a stronger mix of formaldehyde is injected into the torso area. Other orifices are sometimes packed with gauze to prevent seepage. Look, I know it’s gross, but you should know this and choose cremation, especially if you’re an environmentalist!  By the way, this is only done on a body that has not been autopsied.

not bad feet for a corpse

During an autopsy, all of the organs are removed and inspected by a medical examiner. The organs are then put back in the body in a plastic bag. When the body gets to the funeral home, the bag is soaked in chemicals. The inside of the torso is coated with embalming gel or powder and the bag is put back in the body.  (One time that bag broke and someone had to clean it up, that story will come later, I don’t want to gross you out too much in one blog)  We’re almost done….

After all that, the body and hair is washed to remove any excess gross stuff.  The body will then be dressed, usually in something the family chooses, makeup will be applied, hair will be styled and nails will be done. Let’s face it, you’re getting ready for the going away party of your life and everyone wants you to look your best!

So now you know what morticians do. It takes a special kind of person to be able to do that and I give them a lot of credit. You’d never get me to do that shit. And if you think that’s gross, my brother will be guest blogging soon, and he has some disgustingly fascinating stories that I’m sure you’ll like, because who doesn’t want disgusting and fascinating in one place?   Have a wicked Wednesday….

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About Death To Hollywood

My name is Celeste Donohue and I am a writer/comedian who started this blog to tell stories about my life growing up in a funeral home and my adult life which I have spent in Hollywood, California – hence the name, “Death To Hollywood”. Hopefully, you like to read those kinds of stories. If not, go read something serious and boring.....
This entry was posted in death, funeral home, funerals, Hollywood, weird and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Embalming and More…

  1. Mr Maryknoll says:

    Wonderful, C. Where else can one get this kind of info. I just wish I hadn’t had liver for lunch.

  2. mdonohue says:

    Dear Celeste,What a public service,you just rendered.Love,Mom

  3. Thank you for affirming my decision to be cremated! So who were you making out with at The Blue Vomit..I mean Comet? The Greeks never liked me although I had a big old crush on Thom Thahapolous (spelled wrong I think). Valerie married one of the Annes brothers and he opened a restaurant in Center City and named it after her…Valanni. Maybe you should have stuck with your Greek and you would have a diner named after you:)

  4. Kris Donohue says:

    Perhaps corn muffins and embalming could’ve gone together:) Diners & Greeks are a lot better than puncturing insides and having formaldehyde clog your nasal passages!!! It is really gross when you really think of the work dad did to put food on the table………

  5. Christine says:

    I’m with Kris. Pass the muffins.

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