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Death is memorialized

By McKinley Striggow
On November 30, 2017

 

Death can be hard to accept, but it is inevitable in the end.

Around the world life after death is celebrated in many different ways.

Depending on the location in the United States the most common presentation of the dead is in a casket or in an urn, when cremated.

Lowering a casket into the ground, neatly placing soil and a headstone on top is a family’s way of showing visitors that “they were here,” “they lived, and now they are gone.”

"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another," American novelist, Ernest Hemingway said.  

Funerals are a time to look at pictures, reminisce, and pay respects to the deceased one by one in a viewing ceremony.

Before the viewing a lot of preparation has to be made in order for the body to look “lifelike.”

There are cosmetics, waxes, and paints to fill and cover features, plaster to replace entire limbs and aids to prop and stabilize: A Vari-Pose Head Rest, the Edwards Arm and Hand Positioner, the Repose Block, and the Throop Foot Positioner.

Embalming is a lengthy process that takes a precise hand to get the job done.

“This unique approach to interment is unlike death rites anywhere else in the world, and no other country in the world embalms their dead at a rate even approaching that of the U.S. Funeral tradition involves the intersection of culture, law and religion, a recipe that makes for very different outcomes across the globe,” Assistant Professor of Communications at Elon University, Brian Walsh said.

After the body is laid out on the embalming table the blood is drained out through the veins and replaced by embalming fluid pumped in through the arteries.

There are various choices of embalming fluid. With Flextone fluid, being the most popular among embalmers, the skin retains a velvety softness and the tissues are more pliable.

After that about three to six gallons of a dyed and perfumed solution of formaldehyde, glycerin, borax, phenol, alcohol, and water is soon circulated through the body.

A grim aspect to this procedure is that the mouth has to be sewn together to produce a more pleasant, “at peace,” expression. The eyes, meanwhile, are closed with flesh-tinted eye caps and eye cement to keep the eyes from postmortem opening.

After this there are still a couple last minute steps before the funeral; however, the main point of embalming is to preserve the body while making the mourners more comfortable with death.

Death, in the end, is accepted by the dying but the living mourns on.

"How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?" author of ‘The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,' Carson McCullers said. 

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