The embalming process prepares a body for the funeral and eventual burial. It is performed by a mortician and is meant to prevent the spread of disease and to preserve the body until after the funeral. The process starts when the body is brought to the funeral home. Any clothes are removed, and the body is placed on a slab with draining grooves.
The first step in the embalming process is to wash off any waste, bodily fluids, or other materials on the body. Then the muscles are massaged to get rid of stiffness, called rigor mortis, which can make it difficult to move the body. This also helps to break up any congealment or clots in the blood that may have formed after death.
The next step in the embalming process is to set the face. An eye cup is placed over the eyes, to hide sinking, and the eyelids are closed and sealed, usually with glue or other adhesive substance. The mouth is sealed shut in a natural look, and the body is arranged in a natural position. This is all done first because embalming will set the features, making them impossible to move later on. Some morticians will turn the head 15 degrees to the right, so that it is easier to see during the showing.
Once the face is ready, the mortician begins embalming the body. He makes a cut in a main artery, usually near the armpit or groin, to drain out all of the blood. Another slit is made, and approximately three gallons of embalming fluid, made of formaldehyde, methanol and ethanol, is pumped through the veins, pushing out any remaining blood.
The embalming process continues with a small cut above the navel. The mortician inserts a tube into the abdomen through the cut. A pump is attached to the tube, and the contents of the stomach and intestines are pumped out. This also removes all of the gases from the body, preventing bloating. During this part of the embalming process, the mortician also aspirates the abdominal cavity and the inside of any organs, drying them. Full-strength embalming fluid is then pumped into the organs and abdomen.
After the body is stitched closed, the mortician washes it off, including shampooing the hair. Facial hair that may get in the way of makeup application is shaved, and then the body is dressed in clothes delivered by a family member. After that, the hair and makeup is styled, at which point the body is set in the casket for family and friends to view at the calling hours.