A mortician, also known as a funeral director or embalmer, prepares a body for burial or cremation, helps families arrange funerals, oversees the funeral logistics, and completes any necessary paperwork, including preparing and filing the legal certificate of death. He or she may also write obituaries and arranging for them to run in a local newspaper. After burial services, morticians collect plants, flowers, and cards delivered at the funeral home to give to relatives of the deceased. They may also send a final packet with any keepsakes to the family.
Preparing a human body for ceremonial rites begins when a mortician arranges to assume possession of the body from the coroner or hospital morgue. The person first disinfects the body using a cleansing soap containing a germicide. Afterward, he or she drains all the blood from the blood vessels and all other fluids from the body cavity, reducing the risk of the corpse becoming a breeding ground for bacteria.
Blood vessels are then filled with embalming liquid, which preserves the condition of the body and delays decay and infection. Dyes are injected into the corpse to give it a healthy glow for when the body is displayed for viewings and open-casket funeral services. To ensure the deceased person looks presentable, morticians may have to reconstruct the body, especially if the death resulted from a disfiguring crash or deteriorating disease. This is one of the most important tasks because it enables family members to have one final look at the deceased; if it cannot be achieved, a closed-casket funeral might be necessary. For final body preparations, they use cosmetics, wigs, and burial clothing approved by the family to put the final touches on the corpse before it can be presented for public viewing.
A mortician provides comfort and guidance to relatives of the deceased as they plan for cremations or burials. If a cremation is selected, he or she will help arrange the date, order an urn, and arrange for the ashes to be sent to the family after cremation for safekeeping. Alternately, the funeral director can help the family purchase storage services for the urn at a crematorium. In the case of a burial, this person helps the clients select a casket and arranges for them to consult with a cemetery to select a grave location.
For either scenario, the mortician helps plans details of funeral services. This can include arranging the music and minister, as well as memorial photographs and slideshows. It also includes the arrangement of transportation of the casket and the immediate family to and from services. When a decedent has been part of the military, a fraternity, sorority, or social group like the Masons, the funeral director may coordinate special tribute services with cooperation and participation from such groups. While it is not a part of the explicit job description, this person acts as an impromptu grief counselor when families are overwhelmed with sorrow as they attempt to make final arrangements.