The Friendly Funeralista

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Porti-boy embalming machine

Believe it or not, most funeral directors only spend about 10% of their day working with the dead.  What is interesting is the fact that it is the 10%  that most people are most curious about.  So here goes …

Embalming

Definition:  The disinfection, preservation and restoration of a dead human body. 

The specifics: 

The disinfection process involves bathing the deceased and cleansing the ears, nose, mouth and eyes using disinfectant soaps and sprays. 

The preservation aspect occurs when the bodily fluids of the remains are removed and replaced with a preservative fluid.  This involves injecting fluid into an artery and allowing the displaced blood to be removed from a vein.  This process is not unlike a blood transfusion.  Fluids, gases, and solids are removed from the abdominal and thoracic cavities and replaced by preservative fluid.  This process is not unlike a liposuction operation. 

 Restorative procedures include closing of the eyes and mouth, washing and styling the hair, cleaning the fingernails, applying cosmetics, placing and positioning the deceased in the casket.  Other restorative procedures may involve rebuilding the features of the deceased in situations where the deceased underwent a great deal of trauma, or filling out the features in the case where the deceased lost a great deal of weight. 

All of these procedures are performed in order to slow down the decomposition process and to present the deceased for viewing in a dignified fashion until the time of burial, cremation or entombment.  Most mental health professionals believe that viewing the remains of the deceased is helpful for the mourners as seeing the body will lead to acceptance of the death.

Preparation Room

Want your death to really mean something? 

If you live in Ontario, visit www.beadonor and register to be an organ donor with the Trillium Gift of Life network.  All you need is your health card number,  your date of birth and a few minutes of time.  From a funeral perspective, organ donation will not affect your ability to have an open casket.  Please take a moment to watch this inspiring video and then visit http://www.ontario.ca/en/services_for_residents/ONT05_039074.html  to register. 

Here’s your chance to leave a lasting legacy … register today.

There’s an old saying in the funeral business that funeral directors never retire from the profession, they die.  The good news for us undertakers is that we are clearly a group of people who will live long lives.  According to a new book, it is the conscientious not the  “happy-go-lucky” types who live the longest.  The book, entitled The Longevity Project, draws its conclusions from a study began in 1921 conducted by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman.  His study looked at 1500 boys and girls born around 1910.  The purpose of the study was to discover what social, psychological and physical traits are sources of leadership.  When Terman died in 1956, researchers continued collecting information about the then middle-aged participants.  Fast forward to 1990 when psychologist Howard Friedman, co-author of the Longevity Project, began collecting data on the surviving participants.  One of Friedman’s most consistent findings was that conscientious people lived a long time.  Another key finding: longevity is associated with social connectedness particularly if it involves helping others.  Two traits that are consistent among funeral directors are conscientiousness and the desire to help others.  If Dr. Friedman’s findings prove correct, us funeral folk will be around forever!

For more information on The Longevity Project visit:  http://www.howardsfriedman.com/longevityproject/

 

Here is an interesting bit of news from blogger Something Blonde. She comments on a news story out of Redditch, England, where it has been proposed to use the radiant heat from the local crematorium to heat the public swimming pool.
http://somethingblonde.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/ashes-to-splashes/

Baby mummies haven’t been on display at Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum since the 1950’s.  For many, the sight of a mummified child is too much to bear, and this has resulted in these children being buried for decades in the vaults of the ROM.  I would encourage you to watch this video featuring Gayle Gibson, a teacher and Egyptologist at the museum.  She explains why the museum has placed the children back on display and gives a brief overview of  egyptian burial rites and customs.   Very respectful and interesting piece. 

http://www.thestar.com/videozone/embed/924792

Here is a news report from ABC news regarding funeral webcasting.  This is a new technology that will allow funerals to be broadcast over the internet.  Friends and family unable to attend the funeral are able to watch the ceremony on the computer.  Wonder if this will catch on?

The City of Toronto came to a standstill yesterday for the funeral of  Sergeant Ryan Russell, a beloved member of the Toronto Police Service.  Sergeant Russell was killed on January 12, 2010 by a man driving a stolen snowplow.  The driver of the snowplow was apprehended and charged with first degree murder.  Ryan Russell leaves behind his wife, Christine, their 2-year-old son, Nolan, his parents, Glenn and Lynda, and his sister, Tracy.  

The full honours police funeral procession included officers on horseback, The Toronto Police Pipe and Drum Band, a shrouded police cruiser, and 12,000 police personnel from the Toronto Police Service and other police services from all over North America marching on foot.  In the first video you will see that the Toronto Fire Service has provided a canopy for the procession as it makes its way through Toronto’s financial district.  The second video provides footage from the entire procession.  Torontonians, although perceived by much of Canada to be a heartless lot, came out in droves to honour this fallen officer and to bear witness to the human cost of public safety. 

On a personal note, I was pleased to hear that colleagues at the Jerrett Funeral Home were looking after the Russell family.  Funerals for fallen officers involve much pomp and ceremony and high levels of protocol.  Sometimes the family can get lost in all these big plans.  The Jerrett directors clearly remembered that their first responsibility was the grieving family and advocated as necessary to ensure that the wishes of the family were honoured.  Yesterday’s funeral had a good balance of tributes for Ryan the husband, dad, son and friend, and Sergeant Russell, the fallen officer.    It  looked to me like both families, the Russell’s and the Toronto Police Services, were well served.


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