A headline on Reddit recently caught my undivided attention and held it for days…
“I’m A Mortician With Time To Kill. Ask Me Anything.”
That title alone was amazing to me! The questions are mostly good and the answers are utterly fascinating! All of the answers are provided by an anonymous Mortician who works near Austin, Texas and if you’ve ever wondered what happens after you die then read on my friend because you’re in the right place!
…Before we do go on, here’s a photo of a mortician’s tools of the trade:
As fascinating as it all is, Reddit is still Reddit which meant that some of the questions asked were either really stupid or downright crazy and insulting but looking through all 3000 plus comments, the mortician pretty much gave an answer to every genuine question.
I decided to email him or her to ask if I could shape it all into the hopefully coherent blog post you’re now reading and with that, all that remains to be said is a big thank you to The Mortician! Whoever the hell you are!
“I’m A Mortician With Time To Kill. Ask Me Anything.”
Q. What is the strangest request that the deceased had wanted done for their service?
A. We had a dead clown one time. This person was buried in full clown costume with make-up and all. The whole family was clowns, all the friends were clowns. And at the family’s request, the funeral directors were clowns too. They supplied costume and did our make-up Family and friends had 1 tear drop painted on near the eye. Definitely my strangest.
Q. Have you ever had to deal with children? What was it like?
A. Yes, I have embalmed many children from babies to toddlers and up. It never really bothered me. Probably because I didn’t have kids at the time. I’ve seen people get in this business with kids and absolutely cannot embalm or even attempt a child. I now have a 3 year old, but it hasn’t changed my ability to effectively prep a child.
Q. When you cremate someone, how often do the ashes from previous customers make it into the current customer’s mix?
A. There is some co-mingling involved, although very minimal. It is unavoidable, you can’t get every single grain out. As long as you sweep it properly after each person, it is very minimal.
Q. When you say farewell to somebody in public and shake their hand do you say “I’ll be seeing you”? If so, what is their reaction?
A. I’ve said it to elderly family members. “see ya soon!” I usually get a chuckle. Another fun thing is to carry a tailoring tape measure. If someone ever tries some stupid stunt or something, bust it out and start taking their measurements. Gets a laugh every time.
Q. I work in eye tissue donation. I’ve had people refuse because “They need them to see their loved ones when they get to heaven.” What exactly happens to the eyes during an embalming?
A. The eyes usually start to flatten after death. Think of an old grape. They do, however, remain with the decedent. We don’t remove them. You can use what is called an eye cap to put over the flattened eyeball to recreate the natural curvature of the eye. You can also inject tissue builder directly into the eyeball and fill it up. And sometimes, the embalming fluid will fill the eye to normal size.
Q. Have you ever seen the show Six Feet Under? If so, how realistic do you think their portrayal of funeral homes is?
A. I have seen every episode. I think they did a good job making it look real.
Q. Have/Will there ever be a job you refuse to do? ..like under any circumstances of the body/family/whatever?
A. I’ve seen pictures and have heard about people being embalmed and placed on a motorcycle, stood up in the corner, in a recliner. This all seems ridiculous and disrespectful to me. Especially if the deceased did not request it. I say I would refuse to do this to someone but who knows. I mean if the family really wants it.
Q. Awhile back, a fire-fighter posted a photo of the..erm…cork used to hold internal organs in. Do those giant cork things really exist, and do you really have to insert them?
A. I’d have to see a picture. They do make anal plugs that ‘screw’ in to prevent leakage. The anus and vagina are usually packed with surface embalming chems and cotton to help prevent leakage. Not everyone will leak from these areas though.
Q. Did you go into the business by choice?
A. Yes I did. I was fascinated by the industry as a kid. When I was 12, there was a bad head on collision near my house. A man in a truck didn’t make it. My family and I were standing around with all the other neighbors when the coroner arrived. He pronounced, then they took him out and put him on a stretcher, his head turned to the side looking straight at me. I remember being curious as to what happens to people when they die, as far as the physical body.
Q. Do funeral directors always slice the back of an outfit in half so it’s easier to slip on in two pieces?
A. It’s funeral director preference. I always slice the back of tshirts, shirts, and jackets. It just makes it easier to dress. I don’t like jostling around with the body incase they purge some fluids. You can get the pants on without cutting unless they are too small. I work with a guy that cuts nothing, I chuckle as he struggles with a body.
Q. What the most ‘interesting’ death that occurred to a person you mortified?
A. Lot’s of interesting deaths. I embalmed a man that was found dead, leaning over a balcony in the front of his house. It was October and with all his decorations, neighbors thought he also was a decoration. He was there for days. Another time there was an old couple walking down a main road. A truck drove by carrying sheet metal. One flew off near them and decapitated both of them.
Q. What was the grossest job you’ve had to do so far?
A. We had this house call one time. The lady was dead a while. On the couch all bloated as hell. When we started moving her, the abdomen busted. I had goo and maggots all over my leg.
Q. Ever had strange occurrences of a supernatural nature?
A. My first experience at work was when I first started my embalming career. I worked at an independent mortuary service. I had just started my shift and was using a restroom in the back. When I came out, I heard what sounded like a girl sobbing and the sound of feet shuffling around on the floor. The floor was kinda gravely and had a distinct sound if you scooted your feet on it. The sound was coming from around a corner that led into a small room where we would store embalmed bodies ready to be delivered to their respective funeral home. I figured someone was upset and crying. So I kinda snuck in, still hearing the sobbing. When I peaked around the corner, the room was empty. No living person in there. I noticed that there was only one body in there as well. A young girl. She shot herself in the side of the head. I wasn’t scared per say, but I’m pretty sure you could audibly hear my heart beat.
Q. Were you, at any point, disgusted with/by your job? If so, how did you get over it?
A. When you are new in this business, there will be a time when you step back and say, “what the fuck am I doing”. Mine was at mortuary school during embalming lab. The county would have their cases embalmed at the school for practice. The deceased was an autopsy and had no legs. I was just looking at her, autopsy incisions open, the empty cavity inside. Her hands looked as if to be gripping the edge of the table. Her mouth wide open because we hadn’t closed it yet. She looked like she was screaming silently in pain. That was my WTF moment, you get over it.
Q. Is it true that morticians hang bodies on a hook via a cut in the back of their neck?
A. No! But that would be awesome! j/k. It’s funny to me about exactly how little the general public knows about this industry. It’s a myth. People are embalmed on their backs. Another myth is that we cut off the legs of tall people so they fit in the casket. Our secret: put something under the legs so that the knees are bent.
Q. What does a dead body smell like and what exactly, as a mortician, do you do?
A. Depends on what happened to it. Burned bodies smell like burned meat, no different than if you burnt a steak. Electrocuted bodies have a sweet scent to them, reminds me of roasted marshmallow. Decomps can be really horrible to be around and if you’re around the long enough it will make you sick. -I am a licensed funeral director and embalmer. I make arrangements with families, I work on funeral services, I embalm all our bodies at the funeral home. I run errands, I take clergymen, hospice people out to lunch sometimes. There’s a lot to do.
Q. Hi! I hope you can still answer this. I recently came across this on Morbid Reality.
WARNING! EXTREMELY GRAPHIC!
These are pictures of a woman who committed suicide in a bathtub. My question is, how come her bone just “fell off” like that, after a few days?
A. I wouldn’t be a happy mortician responding to this call. I can smell her just looking at her. She is in an advanced stage of decomposition caused by the water she was in. Water will mess you up with a quickness. It was probably also summertime with no a/c. The leg just decayed enough where the tissue couldn’t hold the weight of the bone and it just fell off.
Q. How is business?
Q. If a family member dies of natural causes (heart attack, old age, etc… and not suicide or murder) do I call the mortician or police or should I always call the police?
A. Always call the police first. They will contact the medical examiner, the medical examiner will determine to take the case or release it. If they were under a doctors care, the medical examiner will contact the doctor. If the doctor agrees to sign the death certificate, the medical examiner will release to the funeral home. the police will make the call.
Q. How do you like working with a bunch of stiffs?
A. The general public sometimes thinks we just sit around embalming dead bodies all day. Unless you are strictly an embalmer for a mortuary service, this is not the case. The actual embalming is a very small part of the big picture. Most of my time is spent with living, breathing, hurting people. And believe you me, the living is much more frightful than the dead.
Q. What are your best mortician’s jokes?
A. A man was caring for his wife on her deathbed. She pulls him in close, “honey, I have a confession”. the husband says, “sshhh, no confessions, it’s ok.” she says, “no, you don’t understand, I’ve slept with your brother and your father.” husband says, “I know you cunt, that’s why I poisoned you.”
Q. Do you guys really put spikes in the eyelids to keep them shut during showings?
A. No. the eyelids are glued to keep shut. Some eye-caps are slightly spiked, this is to help the eyelid stay closed.
Q. Have you ever tried using Worchestershire Sauce as embalming fluid to see what would happen?
A. Yes! Damn thing zombied out on us. Luckily the mouth was wired shut. We put it down pretty quickly though.
Q. What things make a funeral so damn expensive? Also why is cremation more expensive than being buried?
A. The first thing you must realize about a funeral home is that it is a business, and in business you must profit to stay in business. Even though we are in the business of helping people, it is not a charitable service. With that being said I will break down the GPL (General Price List)
One of the first costs you will see is for ‘basic services of funeral director and staff’ I have seen this cost from $1295 to as much as $7000. It includes, but is not limited to taxes, license fees, utilities, arrangement conference, preparation and filing of permits.
Embalming. $600 – $1595. If the deceased had an autopsy or donor, additional fees may apply.
Dressing, Casketing and Cosmetics. $100 – $200.
Facility, Staff and Equipment for visitation (per day). $200-$300.
Staff and equipment for funeral service $300-$500.
Removal vehicle and staff for initial call $300-$500.
Funeral coach or hearse. $300-$500.
Service utility vehicle/lead car. $100-$200.
Flower car and driver. $100-$200.
Outer burial container/vault. $700-$10,000.
Clergy honorarium. $100-$300.
Cemetery plot. $1000-$6000.
Open and closing of grave. $600-$2000.
Motorcycle escorts. $100-$200 each.
Obituary in paper. $100-$1500.
Cremation should not be more expensive than burial. The only cremation service I could see getting expensive would be where you want your loved one physically present for the funeral service. We would then do the embalming and a rental casket is involved. The cremation would be scheduled sometime after the service.
Q. How much of a need is it to worry about getting sick from diseased bodies?
A. You can catch diseases from the dead. I use what is called ‘universal precautions’ treating every body as if it is infectious. I pretend that if I even touch their skin I’m gonna fucking die.
Final Words: I had a lot of fun with this. I hope I have helped dispel some myths and give you a clearer understanding of exactly what we do. And remember, we’re not the weird ones.. it’s you people.
Obviously all of the above was culled and boiled down from the original Reddit thread. If you’re interested in reading that, you can! – By clicking right HERE.