Regardless of whether you choose to cremate or bury the body of the deceased, if you intend to to have any sort of viewing, you will need to decide whether or not you want the body embalmed. Embalming is a process of chemically treating the body to forestall decomposition. Essentially preserving the body for viewing.
Embalming and other types of preservation have been recorded in history as far back as the Egyptians. Back in those days, only the wealthy were embalmed, or "mummified", as it was known then. And history has shown that the Egyptian mummies were well preserved for thousands of years. Over the years the procedure has changed many times to what we now know as modern day embalming.
We use embalming today for two primary reasons - to allow adequate time between death and burial to observe social customs such as visitations and funeral services, and to prevent the spread of infection. Most bodies in the United States are embalmed, though it is not required by law in most cases.
Once the body is cleaned and embalmed, the body is dressed and casketed. The hair is done and special make-up is applied to the face and hands to give a natural and more life-like appearance.
Why We Embalm?
Embalming is primarily done to disinfect and preserve the remains. Disinfection is important for all who have to handle the remains, and for the public safety of our communities. In the past, deaths due to typhoid fever, malaria and other highly contagious diseases, put funeral directors and others who came into contact with the remains at a very high risk.
Secondly, it has been a tradition to have a period of visitation of the remains. Without embalming, most remains would only be viewable for a short period of time. Embalming gives us the time needed to pay respect and express our sympathies.