In my research of the embalming process, I know that the mouth always looks weird because the jaw has been wired shut. To me, this makes their mouths look like a puppet’s mouth, and I have never found this to give me peace. I am not here to bash all embalmers. In fact, I know that most embalmers want to truly help the family in grief. Their education as funeral director teaches them that families need a “memory picture” for them to move through grief peacefully. When my mother-in-law died, the embalmer was able to fix her hair so that no one could tell she had had surgery. I know that looking good was very important to her and was pleased with the work they did for her. What I take issue with is Funeral Directors using the term as a way to justify embalming, or their professionalism in the private mourning of a family. Memory pictures do not belong to the death care industry, memory pictures belong to those who love the person who has died. Do not be manipulated into thinking you need to have an embalmed body made-up and placed in a coffin to have closure. Our bodies are generally not disgusting and embalming is not a requirement for burial. Funeral homes make a requirement for viewings and for their “memory pictures”. The industry, in doing this, has insinuated themselves into the family’s private grieving process, and appointed themselves as professionals in this process. Only the family knows what is best for their own family.
Memory pictures are those memories we hold dear of our loved one. They are the many memories we have of our loved ones who have died that bring us joy and make us remember just how wonderful they were, or maybe they are the memories of things that drove us most crazy about them when they were alive. No industry can direct the memoires of our loved ones. I think if we all took the time to talk about death, and what we need to do at the time of death, our loved ones would be at the mercy of the “professionals” that present choices that fit their belief system but not ours. In this season, let us make memories of those we love, and take the time to express to those around us what we want as our final wishes.