It has been a while since I have written a blog entry here. I guess I have been super-busy and pre-occupied with other things. I wanted to share a story about a product we often used in the prep room of the funeral home. It was a cinnamon-scented air freshener. I do not know what the concoction was or the brand name, but I do know this air freshener was no typical kind that could be bought in a local store. It was specially made for areas like funeral homes. Why did we need it? Well typically, when a body was embalmed the natural smells of decay would disappear. Embalming, after all, stops natural decay and preserves a body. However, there were several times when a family would not want the body embalmed. Sometimes it was because of the expense. Sometimes it was for religious reasons. Sometimes it was because the body would soon be cremated and had no reason to be preserved. I remember one case when a family decided to forgo embalming because of the expense. Typically embalming was over $1,000 – and there is no law or rule that says you have to have a body embalmed. The only law that requires embalming is when a body is to be flown in an airplane to another location. Funeral homes may make you believe embalming is required, but it is not. It is, however, a very good idea to embalm if you are planning on having a funeral service where the body o the deceased is present. Even with a closed casket, a decaying body can emit horrific smells. So funeral directors often encourage embalming, not so much for the money, but more for the family’s peace of mind and grieving experience.
There were several times that I recall bodies not being embalmed. One that stands out is the story of a large fella who passed away unexpectedly and a bit young – probably he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s. e had been through a recent, nasty divorce, and his ex-wife was the primary family member involved in his funeral planning. We cannot confirm the reasons why she did not have him embalmed. It could have been due to the expense or it could have been some type of sick revenge tactic. I hope it was not the latter.
The man, whom we had to dress in a dark pin-stropped suit was beginning to decay quickly. There were no visible signs at first of decay, but the smell grew increasingly worse throughout the few days that we were “storing” him in the prep room before his funeral. He stunk. A lot. It got to the point where it was truly hard to be in the prep room due to his smell. That’s when I discovered the high-powered cinnamon air spray. It was in a generic looking, industrial size spray can. I sprayed it a ll around the prep room and it did eliminate the smell for about 15-20 minutes. At that time, a quick re-spray would buy us more time.
The funeral director pleaded with the family not have the body present in the room during the funeral. But they insisted. So we had to spray the room before, during, and after the viewing and funeral services. There is no doubt that the family smelled the decaying man. Of all of the horrible things a family has to go through after the death of a loved one, smelling their decaying body is not one to add to the list. That is why embalming is important. By the time the day arrived for the man;s burial, his hands and neck/chin areas were beginning to turn dark. Nature was running it’s course. Without the embalming, there was nothing more to be done – other than spray the area every few minutes with cinnamon spray.