Sleeping Beauty

What a mortician can do for you

By Aidan Hendrickson; illustration by Kelsey Skordal

Someday, you will die. If your body is handled like that of most Americans, you will be placed in the care of a funeral parlor. You will be embalmed as soon as possible in order to keep your appearance as lifelike as possible. Most funeral parlors strongly recommend or require embalming for an open-casket funeral which, on top of siphoning hundreds of dollars to the parlor from your grieving family, also ensures that you will look and smell your very best for your funeral.

The process will begin with the mortician placing you on your back on an operating table, where they will remove your clothes and place a towel over your genitals. Your mouth, nose and eyes will be washed with disinfectant. Regardless of your gender or age, your face will be shaved in order to optimize the effect of makeup, removing hair that may appear to continue growing due to shrinkage of your skin. Your body will be massaged to reduce rigor mortis.

 Specially designed caps are then placed inside your eyes in order to hold them closed and compensate for eyeball shrinkage. Your mouth will be either sewn shut or held closed by a needle injected into your gums, and filled with cotton. Moisturizer will be applied to your face in order to prevent shriveling.

By this point, your red blood cells, uncirculated by your heart, will have sunken to the lower portions of your body, giving them a purple hue while higher areas are left pallid. 

Your blood has got to go. 

The mortician will now use a scalpel to make a small incision in your neck. They will sever your common carotid artery, tie one side off and insert a metal arterial tube into the other. An embalming machine will pump two gallons of bubblegum-pink embalming fluid into your circulatory system. As the fluid travels through your veins, your skin’s pallor will be replaced with a healthy pink hue from pigments in the mixture. At some point, the tied end of the artery and the connected side will be switched in order to ensure that you are entirely embalmed. Displaced blood, mixed with excess embalming fluid, will drain from an incision in your jugular vein, travel through a tube and flush into the sewer system. While your blood is replaced with embalming fluid, you will be washed in disinfectant and your limbs massaged in order to ensure circulation.

Next, a tubular instrument called a trocar will pierce your stomach near your belly button. The mortician will wiggle it in different directions, puncturing various organs and sucking out fluids, bacteria and gases, preventing them from building up until they force their way out of your body through your mouth and nose. Once emptied of their original contents, your organs will be filled with a formaldehyde solution, and the hole left behind will be stuffed with cotton and sewn shut with a plastic device called a trocar button. Your orifices will also be stuffed with cotton to absorb leaking fluids.

If your face appears emaciated, it will receive injections of pink gel in order to return it to an attractive fullness and hue. The mortician will give you a final wash, cleaning up spilled bodily fluids and chemicals. Your skin will be moisturized, your hair combed and styled and your nails trimmed. Makeup will be applied generously to your face, concealing discolorations and giving it a lifelike blush. You will be redressed and presented as your family requests.

After your family, friends and acquaintances—to compensate for a lack of living connection—have finished viewing your beautifully preserved body, you will be buried or cremated. If you are buried, you will likely be placed inside of a vault in order to prevent the ground collapsing above as your body and coffin decompose. Inside this sealed environment, your lifelike beauty will remain for a week or two, but you will inevitably begin to decompose. If the vault is watertight, you will begin to gradually melt into a gooey mess and settle on the floor of the vault. If not, you will shrivel into an emaciated mummy while carcinogenic embalming fluids drain into the soil.

A quality embalmment will allow you to share your beauty with the world a final time and, if you are lucky, will help supersede any unsavory memories of your appearance while living. Now that you understand the care you will receive, you must be dying to die.