I thought it might be fun to look at what funeral directors have said to me when asked about having a natural body at a wake for an open coffin. This question irritates many funeral directors who believe that embalming is the only way to go unless you want to cremate.
We Aren’t Egyptians!
This response came during my first encounter with the death care industry at my father-in-law’s death. My husband did not want to embalm his father. Sounding offended, the funeral director said, “We aren’t Egyptians!” The truth is that they do bare a similarity to the Egyptians. Present day embalmers remove internal organs with a trocar during the process.
Being natural is not illegal. It’s just not done often at a funeral, and finding a funeral home to accomplish your plans might prove difficult. Telling a customer that it is illegal will get the funeral home in hot water. This particular funeral home recanted the statement and said that the person giving information on funerals was not allowed to do so. They went on to say that embalming sanitizes the body, which it does not. Embalming retards the decomposition process.
Do We Think We Can Minimize the Belching? Yes.
OK, after death the body might make unsettling sounds and there might be some muscle movement, but this does not have to do with being a natural body vs. embalming. This is just part of the natural but odd things that bodies might do after death. This director was hoping to upset me enough to change my mind about the whole natural body at a funeral idea. It did not work.
The State Will Slap Any Funeral Home With Heavy Fines if They Had an Unembalmed Body at a Visitation
This goes along with the “it’s illegal” response category. There are no state funeral inspectors running around making sure all open coffin wakes have bodies that have been embalmed. He went on to say that embalming protects the funeral home from any lawsuits if someone became ill from a funeral that had a natural body. He did say that bodies did not necessarily transmit disease, but that was why there were such heavy fines. Some states have requirements for embalming if the person died of certain contagious diseases. Check the laws of your state from the Funeral Consumers Alliance concerning requirements.
It’s Against the Policy of the Funeral Home
If you get this response, you have found an honest funeral director. The main hurdle to being natural in death is the policy of the funeral home itself. The current industry still relies on their embalming services. Many truly believe that embalming is the best practice in funerals, unless you choose cremation. This devotion to embalming is a hold over to the past. The times are changing, but the industry is not keeping up yet.
Come Up With a Plan and We’ll Make it Happen
This response is perhaps the rarest of all responses I have heard. Quite frankly this should not be a rare occurrence. The industry must change or parish. If the conventional industry is to survive, it must realize they are not in the embalming business, but in the end of life business. With the variety of people who have religious, cultural and philosophical differences, the variety of the way people wish to mark the end of life will continue to diversify. As long as it is not illegal, people should be able to have what they want when they mark the end of the life of someone they love.