Confessions of A Mortician

mortician morgue experience: feet of a corpseBy Vivian Giang

A man who works in a mortuary led a Reddit thread to give a glimpse into what it's like to deal with issues of mortality on a daily basis. Covering topics that included the strangest requests he's ever had, and what happens during cremation and embalming, here's the closest most of us will ever get to knowing what it's like to work in a morgue.

NOTE: Reddit uses anonymous sources, which we can't verify. We've slightly edited questions and answers for clarity.

Q: What is the strangest request that you've ever received for a funeral service?

A:
We had a dead clown one time. This person was buried in full clown costume with makeup 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 costumes and did our makeup. Family and friends had one tear drop painted on near the eye. Definitely my strangest.
They were all sad clowns with a tear.

Q: Any other funerals that stand out in your memory?

A:
One time we had a person who did some acting and modeling in California. A hand model. The family came in early to set up pictures and things.

I showed them in, helped them get started then left them. I came back about 10 minutes later to check on them and just about every picture they put up was this person's hands from the various ads they did. There were some family photos, but most were a pair of hands.

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Q: What is the most embarrassing thing you've done to a cadaver?

A:
I had this guy to prep one time. He had an intubater ... this tube down his throat and was taped on his face. One piece of the tape was across his mustache. When I took the tape off, most of his mustache came with it. So I shaved it. The wife was super pissed. She threatened to sue unless we fixed it.

So what am I to do? I went to a costume shop and bought a pack of fake mustaches. We had a picture of him, but none of these mustaches worked. I picked the best possible match and put it on him. We then called her to come look. We were nervous. It was bad. So she comes in and absolutely loves it! I couldn't believe it. She then turned super sweet and hugged me.

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 since you can't get every single grain out. As long as you sweep it properly after each person, it is very minimal.

Q: What exactly happens to the eyes during an embalming? Do you glue the lips of the dead person together?

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.

Yes, the eyes and lips are glued together.

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Q: Will there ever be a job you refuse to do?

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: Did you go into the business by your own 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 and 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 him deceased, then they took him out and put him on a stretcher and 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: Are women creeped out by your career choice?

A: Some are. I like to date other morticians or nurses. They seem to understand and are over the whole novelty of it.

Q: Would you be embalmed yourself? Or would you want to be cremated?

A: I'm ok with being embalmed and buried. I'm also ok with being cremated. I will let my family choose the method which best suits them at the time.

Q: What kind of person would make a good mortician?

A: It's funny. I was a waiter for many years in my younger days. I always say, if you can be a successful waiter, you can be a successful funeral director. They are similar in many ways. They both wait on families and provide what should be excellent customer service. The only difference is that one puts a pizza in the oven and the other puts a body in the oven.

Morticians Confess Their Secrets




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Natasha Alex

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October 29 2013 at 6:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AddEleven

We once knew a family whose mother had requested a "closed casket ". Some of the incoming children asked for and received a last look at their mother before the wake began. One of the daughters almost passed out; the 90-yr-old mother appeared as though she had exaggeraged buck-teeth (which she did not). The deceased husband of this deceased warned all his children in earlier years that they'd better keep an eye on the mortician, as the woman had thousands of dollars of gold in her mouth. Sure enough, their attorneys have requested an exhumation. We'll see what happens here.

March 25 2013 at 9:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul

I remember working as a night watchman at a funeral home while I was going to college. It took some getting use to but I finally started sleeping well once I got over all the little noises you think you hear.

February 13 2013 at 9:27 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kristij2013

A mortician would be a secure job anyway. Everybody dies at some time or other.

February 12 2013 at 11:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gpestich

I am a nurse....trained in Pgh., Pa.....mortician school was across the street from our dorm...we partied with the student morticians...woo hoo..those guys knew how to have fun and throw a party...wild group!

February 12 2013 at 10:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
madmaxt11

Short interview.... Just 10 questions?

February 12 2013 at 9:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to madmaxt11's comment
tamsen86

Dead is dead. I hadn't thought about the co-mingling of ashes but I guess it doesn't matter. I was hoping the mortician wouldn't make a buncha corny wisecracks but he seems respectful.

February 13 2013 at 4:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kehehj

I think it's interesting that he noted he only dated other morticians or nurses. As a longtime nurse it made me think. I've cared for numerous people as they died and after they died. It brings about a certain acceptance about life and death. I can see where that would make a good pairing. I might have to start hanging around my local mortuary when looking for a date.

February 12 2013 at 8:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rkeeeballs

...Cremation is the best in my opinion.....ash's on the mantel to be spread by the family in private areas that were/are special...Don't want my kids to come back from wherever they live to look at a marker. I'm not there !

February 12 2013 at 1:35 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Cheryl Keith

My mother was a 20th Century lady from a large family of very limited means. As a child she played with another little girl whose dad was the town's undertaker and had his business in his home (not uncommon in those days). She always said that she would have chosen to be a mortician if the fiscal resources had been available. She would tell one and all "What nicer job could you possibly have? You get to do the last things anyone can do for the deceased and you can be such a comfort to the family." Wouldn't it be wonderful for everyone if all morticians approached their work with that attitude each and every day?

February 12 2013 at 1:05 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
jay

somebody has to do it. I see nothing wrong, it's a profession. Not for me, but others wouldn't want my job either?

February 12 2013 at 12:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jay's comment
mike

You mean your job is worse than giving makeovers to dead people ?

February 12 2013 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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