Embalming is a part of the funeral process, and this process was first used by the Egyptians. The word "embalm" means to protect from change, which is the goal in the embalming process. Since the Egyptians, the process has been simplified, but the goal is still the same. Almost every American will be embalmed upon death, especially if the body will be viewed by family and friends.
During Egyptian times, embalming was a sacred process that lasted 70 days. All of the deceased's organs were removed and placed in canopic jars. The body was then cured for 40 days by putting natron salt in the body's cavity and resin in the skull. Then the body was scented with perfume and herbs and wrapped so it could be put in a coffin or entombment. Embalming started in the United States during the Civil War, but the process was much simpler than in Egyptian times. Arsenic and water was injected into the arteries, but this technique was discontinued in the 20th century after finding out the negative health effects of arsenic.
Embalming is used to preserve the dead body and temporarily prevent decay. When a person dies, it's important for the mortician to pick up the body immediately and start the embalming process. This process enables families and friends to attend open-casket wakes and remember their loved ones as they were. While embalming is effective in preserving the body, it can only do so much as the body will eventually decay over time.
First, the pre-embalming process is performed, which is a written record of the deceased's physical appearance (cuts, bruises, jewelry, clothing, etc.). Then the body is cleaned with a disinfectant spray, and the face is shaved (whether it is a man or a woman) so that makeup can be easily applied. Second, the body is set in the way that it will lay in the casket. The head is put on a block, and the arms are crossed and set in place by a positioning device. To keep the eyes shut, a textured contact known as an eyecap is sometimes used as well as stay creme. To keep the mouth shut, the jaw is often tied together with suture string. Third, arterial embalming takes place. Formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde is injected into an artery, which forces the blood out of a vein so that it can be disposed of. Fourth, if an autopsy has not been performed, cavity embalming will be required. A sharp tool called a trocar will be used along with an electric or water-powered aspirator to suck the remaining fluids out of the internal organs. Lastly, post-embalming includes the washing and styling of the hair, dressing of the body in clothes and the application of makeup.
It can take an embalmer two or more hours to properly embalm the deceased individual. Sometimes the process is simple, but other times, reconstruction might be needed if the person was murdered or killed in an accident. The embalming will preserve the body for a few days, which is enough time for the funeral to take place. In order to create a lifelike appearance, it's important to have the body embalmed as soon as possible.
A quality embalming enables the family and friends of the deceased individual to have a good last memory of their loved one. Instead of seeing them with cuts, wounds, blood, etc., they remember them looking pleasant and free of pain. When an embalmer does a quality job, it provides family and friends with peace of mind so that they can continue the healing process.
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