What I Learned At The Funeral Home

Ok. So.

If you are reading that title and scratching your head, let me just say that this post will not appeal to all of you.

In fact, some of you who might be first time visitors to ‘From Inmates To Playdates’ will know without a shadow of a doubt, that yes indeed, I am a little different crazy.You will get no argument from me and this post will certainly prove that yes, I am a rare bird.

For many months, I have been begging bugging a mortician friend of mine to let me watch an embalming.

True Story.

A few weeks ago, I was at home and received a phone call from him. My mortician friend asked if I was available later that evening.

To watch an embalming.

Was I available?

Sweet mercy I would make myself available. My dad, who happened to be at my house when the call came agreed to watch the boys. I changed my clothes even though I had no idea what to wear to an event such as this and tried to prepare myself for the um, event. I was a little nervous when I arrived at the funeral home, unsure of what I had gotten myself into. Upon my arrival, my mortician friend handed me a lab coat to wear, I guess on the off chance I happened to go all mad-scientist on him. I was a sight.

The first thing that shocked me was entering the room and seeing the body on the embalming table. Now one would think I would have been totally prepared for that, but I’m not sure if one can ever be totally ready to see their first dead body.

It was so final.

And cold.

The embalming process viewing experience was really cool and I would suggest you stop right here if you have a weak stomach. If you are nosy like me though, you just keep right on a truckin’. And just to be clear, I would do it all over again if my mortician friend ever called.

If you are interested in the actual scientific procedure, you can read all about the gory details of embalming here. I don’t know enough about the process to get into the scientific portion of it, but I will share my experience with you.

You know, mainly because it is Tuesday, and it is time for another edition of What I Learned This Week. Because where else might you ever hear about a real, live embalming?

I say it all the time people. This blog is about so much more than just cheap entertainment.

Brace yourselves. This could get bumpy gory.

1. Embalming the human body takes just over an hour. (Probably less if you don’t have to stop and explain every. single. thing. you are doing to a weird gal who just happens to be standing over your shoulder asking approximately 3,617 questions.)

2. The mouth is wired shut during the embalming process using an injector needle. Yes, I said wired SHUT.(McDaddy, please promise me you won’t let them wire me completely shut!) I once had my jaws wired shut for six weeks. It was not fun. At all. And the thought of my mouth being wired shut for the better part of eternity is more than I can handle. I have asked my mortician friend to leave me a little “breathing room” if I happen across his embalming table.

Breathing room. I crack myself up.

3. An artery (usually the carotid) is used for the entry of the embalming fluid. A vein (usually the jugular) is used for the bodily fluids to be drained from the body. There is LOTS and LOTS of blood.

4. Once the blood leaves the body, it goes right down a drain and into the sewer.

Weird, but also true.

5. Eyecaps (which look like contact lenses with grooves on one side) are used to hold the eyelids closed. [It makes me sad to think that one of my best features won’t even be visable at my last hoo-rah!]

6. After the arterial embalming, another process called cavity embalming is necessary to preserve the internal organs. If not, you would rot from the inside out.

You’re welcome.

7. Cavity embalming is achieved using a really cool device called a trocar.

OH MY SWEET MOSES. It was all fun and games till he busted the trocar out.

The cavity embalming is the most overwhelming part of the process. It is achieved by driving a trocar into an organ as if one is stabbing a piece of meat. And yes, it is just as gross as it sounds.

I still shudder when I think about it.

[Side note: In my search for an image of a trocar, I found these earrings on a site called PushinDaisies dot com. If you’re looking for a gift for that special funeral director in your life, you should go there when you leave here. They even have a shirt that says Support your local funeral director: DROP DEAD! Can I just say that IF I were a funeral director, I would totally buy one of those shirts!]

trocar earrings

8. As I watched my mortician friend, I prayed for the family of the person being embalmed.

9. The face is shaved to give the make-up a more natural look.

10. In most cases, the mortician applies the make-up. [Y’all. I was totally impressed with his make-up skills.]

11. Morticians must learn methods of embalming without the use of electricity in the case of a power outage. [For some reason, I was fascinated by this fact. Who thinks of this stuff?]

12. Even though I have talked at length here on the blog about my funeral and my desire for a solid mahogany casket, I learned that a wood casket is only a good option IF you have a water-proof vault.

[Did you hear that McDaddy? I need a water proof vault! Don’t roll your eyes at me. I. am. worth. it.]

13. If you watch an embalming, there is a good chance it will stick with you for days weeks months to come. Plus, it will get you thinking about your own embalming and wondering whether or not your mortician friend would be willing to suck out some gut before putting you on display in all your glory.

(Is this possible, B?)

14. The embalming process is an interesting thing to watch and I have it on good authority that an embalming after an autopsy is a lot different than a “normal” embalming. I’d be up for watching that, too my friend. 

I know. I know. I told y’all I was crazy. If this don’t prove it, I don’t know what does.

There you have it.

Fourteen more things than you ever wanted to know about embalming.

Head on over to Musings Of A Housewife for Things that other people Learned This Week, most of which probably have nothing to do with embalming.


  1. says

    Ok, Julie, that was wierd, but hey if you enjoyed it, that is what it is all about!

    PS I had my jaw wired shut for 4 weeks when I was 16 after I had to have reconstructive jaw surgery (all related to being born with a cleft palate and trying to prevent TMJ), so I hear you on the wiring shut!!!!
    .-= Allison @ Slice of Heaven´s last blog ..Aloha! =-.

  2. Jodie says

    I’m sure you will remember it for much more than mere weeks. 🙂 I still vividly remember the embalming I observed about 15 years ago.

  3. Michele says

    Thanks Julie!! You know my dad has been in this business forever and I have always asked what happens and I always got the response “you really don’t want to know”. You have answered all the questions. I’m glad there is people out there like my dad and morticians that can do that job because IT AIN’T CUT OUT FOR ME!!! I can remember just walking in the funeral home with my hands over my face so I couldn’t see anything!

  4. polly says

    on a lighter note julie if all your outlets are closed off should anyone(who know you quite well) prepare theirselves to witness the possibility that steam may come from the top of your head!!! luv ya LOL

  5. says

    This has got to be the sickest post I’ve read on a blog, well at least lately. What is even sicker is that I read the whole thing! Love that T-shirt, “Support your funeral director: DROP DREAD”. Funny.

  6. says

    When my husband was a youth pastor, he once took our group (I didn’t get to go because it was late at night and my kids were still babies) to a funeral home. It was a great learning experience for them and a visual of our mortality!
    .-= Hillcrest Cottage´s last blog ..Family Vacation =-.

  7. says

    It will stay with you forever. I’m a licensed mortician, but don’t work now since I’m playing stay-at-home mommy. I remember the very first one I observed and details from every one after that. The process is definitely not for everyone, but I truly enjoyed it, knowing that it really does make the deceased look better for their family to view! Glad you found the process educational and interesting!

  8. says

    Okay, I’m so glad that you enjoyed your experience! I can honestly say that I have had a lot of questions about this process in the past, but I have never, ever wanted to watch the process actually take place!! I know that it is something that must occur to all of us when we pass on but there is something about actually watching it that just gives me the willies.

  9. Amber says

    Well, as I am sure that your “hunky” funeral director friend told you. I have seen this as well & it grossed me out. The worst part for me was the trocar thing. I wish to never see that again. However if you ever watch liposuction on TV, it will totally bring back embalming images to your mind. Number 2 grossest thing about it is the wiring shut of the mouth! But I will have to say he impresses me with his skills in cosmetics & embalming!!

  10. says

    Interesting article!!!! There are many details about funeral home. I am so glad to know about your experience and enjoyed it. I read your blog, it is very nice….

  11. says

    It’s “funny” that I read this now ’cause I just watched a movie (After Life) that showed the part about the mouth being wired/sewn shut and the ridged contact lenses and I was wondering if that’s what they really do. Now I know. I’m not sure if I’m happy about that or not. LOL. Well, you warned us blog hoppers from No Go… this was interesting.

    Although I’m not quite sure why you wanted to do that I’m sure it’ll be clear as I read more of your blog. It’s nice to meet you. 🙂

  12. says

    OK, I think this was one of the weirdests posts I’ve read in a long time but hey, I enjoyed it! I don’t think I’d have the guts to watch an embalming, and really, there’s no need to now that I’ve read about it, but as an experience I think it’s as good as any other. *lol*

    I definitely like your sense of humor, girl. Where do I sign up to follow you? 😉

    Have a great weekend!!!
    Blanca in Spain recently posted…No-Go BlogHerMy Profile


  1. […] bloggers is my quirkiness -and believe me, there is plenty of it. My quirkiest post was entitled Things I Learned At The Funeral Home and was a result of my watching an embalming. Yes, you should go there right now and read it. […]

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