Debunking Myths on Embalming & Cremation - Transcript

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Debunking Myths on Embalming & Cremation – Transcript

[00:00:00] Pete: We hear all about myths in funeral homes and funeral services, and we are here at the Good Grief Podcast to work through some of those myths and get you down to the actual reality of embalming and creation. Amber Miller from the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes joins us here on good grief. We’ll talk about that and more right here on the Good Grief Podcast.

[00:00:25] Pete: Right after this.

[00:00:29] Amber: Hi, it’s Amber here, and on behalf of all of us at the O’Connell Family Funeral Homes, we are passionate about educating the community on the importance of funeral pre-planning. That is why each year, we host a seminar with Pekin Insurance to discuss topics like funeral pre-planning, estate planning, long-term care planning, and elder law.

[00:00:49] Amber: This is the perfect opportunity to ask questions of the experts, and it’s all free. 

[00:00:54] Amber: Head to our website, https://oconnellfuneralhomes.com/ to check out this year’s guest presenters. But don’t [00:01:00] forget to reserve your spot today. 

[00:01:01] Amber: An added bonus of signing up is that you get special access to a recording of the event to not only keep as a resource to access anytime you want, but to also share with your family when discussing your end of life wishes.

[00:01:13] Amber: And now back to our podcast. 

[00:01:16] Pete: Good day, Amber. 

[00:01:17] Amber: Hi. 

[00:01:17] Pete: It is a good day. 

[00:01:18] Amber: It is.

[00:01:19] Pete: Great to see you here. And uh, you had shared a video from me from YouTube a few months back earlier in the year. Maybe you should share it just as sort of a basis of how this topic, about the myths in the embalming cremation process came about. 

[00:01:35] Amber: Yeah. So I went to school with a funeral director who started his own YouTube channel and talks kind of the nitty gritty about different things that happen either during the embalming process or myths or things that he hears in his normal work. And I took a lot of interest and inspiration from those posts and wanted to incorporate here on the podcast today.

[00:01:56] Pete: Well, and you know what’s so funny is when people say, “I [00:02:00] heard this happened during this.” Well, what does ‘heard’ mean? And where does that come from? And it’s quite funny how, you know when you play that telephone game when you were a kid, the message was totally skewed by the time you got to the end of the line. That clearly has to happen here. 

[00:02:14] Amber: Oh, absolutely. A hundred percent. 

[00:02:16] Pete: And then people just like literally run with it, don’t they? 

[00:02:18] Amber: They run with it. 

[00:02:19] Pete: Yeah. Okay. Well let’s go into it right now. 

[00:02:21] Amber: Yep. 

[00:02:21] Pete: Myths and mysticism you talk about and looking at some of the big questions that come about. So I’m just gonna fire this out. And then you let me know. 

[00:02:28] Pete: Like, I would never even consider this. Where does this one come from? Funeral homes keep the deceased’s jewelry. 

[00:02:34] Amber: I have no idea where it comes from and where that rumor started. 

[00:02:38] Pete: I do, I know where it came from. Someone stole a loved one’s jewelry and then when they wanted to give it away, everybody asked them, said no, the funeral home took it. 

[00:02:47] Amber: Mm-hmm. 

[00:02:48] Pete: I bet. 

[00:02:48] Amber: Well, and historically too, there’s a lot of like grave, you know, grave robbers. You hear of them back in, you know, centuries and centuries ago. So maybe that kind of, you know, led people to hide sense. 

[00:02:59] Pete: But [00:03:00] you guys do not. You, you return it. 

[00:03:01] Amber: No. Right, right. Whatever jewelry is with the deceased is staying with them unless the family wishes otherwise. We’re not taking anything off or removing anything without their permission.

[00:03:11] Pete: The gold diggers take out gold teeth. And feel, come on, is this real? 

[00:03:15] Amber: Yep. Yep. 

[00:03:17] Pete: Oh my God. Do tell. 

[00:03:20] Amber: This, we hear often of families requesting that we remove their fillings. And this is a huge misconception. We do not remove any fillings, for the most part, all fillings or teeth that are in our mouth.

[00:03:35] Pete: You do get requested that? 

[00:03:36] Amber: Oh yeah. Or alloys of metal. So they’re not real gold, they’re not pure silver. Nothing that you would really be able to. 

[00:03:44] Pete: They’re not sticking gold in your teeth.

[00:03:45] Amber: Correct. Right. Yep. So they may be like part or a mixture, but they’re really alloys. They’re really not worth anything.

[00:03:52] Amber: And no matter how much the family wants us to remove them, we don’t. You can most certainly hire a dentist, but in [00:04:00] my, what, almost 15 years here. I’ve never had a dentist walk through the doors and take a filling out. 

[00:04:06] Pete: I am just, I don’t even know where. I wouldn’t even think that. 

[00:04:09] Amber: Mm-hmm. 

[00:04:09] Amberpete: But it happens.

[00:04:10] Amber: Yep. People ask.

[00:04:12] Pete: Hmm. This year has it happened? 

[00:04:14] Amber: Maybe not this year yet, but at the end of the last year, yes. 

[00:04:17] Pete: Oof. Okay. Oh, how about uh, the, knees and the hips and the implants? 

[00:04:21] Amber: Mm-hmm. People ask about that too.

[00:04:23] Pete: That you sell it? You grab a knee out of a deceased and then you sell it to the orthopedic surgeon down the road.

[00:04:30] Amber: Correct.

[00:04:31] Pete: To reuse. 

[00:04:32] Amber: Right? Yep. Nope. We always put them in the body. We never remove them. If a person is cremated, oftentimes those metals, they’re typically like platinum or titanium. Those are unable to be reduced in the cremation process because the crematory doesn’t get hot enough to melt those metals.

[00:04:50] Amber: So those do come out at the end of the process. 

[00:04:53] Pete: So they’re sitting there. 

[00:04:54] Amber: Right. Yep.

[00:04:55] Pete: Are they fully contained or are they kind of melted? 

[00:04:58] Amber: Nope. Usually fully [00:05:00] intact. 

[00:05:00] Pete: You could just grab it and… really? 

[00:05:02] Amber: Yep, yep. Now, some families request that they want those back, which we completely honor but it’s not something we can return to the orthopedic center. 

[00:05:11] Pete: So you can see who’s had a lot of work on their hips and knees then. 

[00:05:14] Amber: Mm-hmm. 

[00:05:14] Pete: And you’re like, wow, they aren’t, they grinded it out. 

[00:05:18] Amber: Right? 

[00:05:18] Pete: Yeah. Wow. Okay. Fascinating. Mm-hmm. So, but there’s no way you can do that. So do you just throw that away? Is there a procedure. 

[00:05:25] Amber: Yeah, we donate it to a metal recycler. 

[00:05:28] Pete: Oh! 

[00:05:28] Amber: And they melt those down. And then any funds that come from it, so if it was really pure silver or gold or platinum, that’s donated to local St. Croix County non-profit charities. So we don’t keep any of the profits for those. 

[00:05:42] Pete: Is there really a narrative out there? And I don’t know how you would do that. Cremate more than one body at a time?

[00:05:49] Amber: There is. We get that often. Yeah. In fact, a couple of days ago, I had a family reach out asking about it. Nope, we only cremate one person at a time. There’s not more than one [00:06:00] person in there. 

[00:06:00] Pete: But that’s a myth rumor that flies around?

[00:06:02] Amber: Yep. And I don’t know where it came from.

[00:06:04] Pete: Could you even fit more than one body in there? 

[00:06:06] Amber: Not in ours. Nope. There may be some that have multiple. It probably stemmed from maybe someone years and years ago.

[00:06:15] Pete: That could have happened somewhere in New Jersey or California.

[00:06:18] Amber: Maybe there’s one rogue funeral director. 

[00:06:19] Pete: But now they all, everybody does it.

[00:06:20] Amber: Correct. 

[00:06:21] Pete: Okay. And if you did do that, how do you keep the remains contained? 

[00:06:25] Amber: Right. Exactly. 

[00:06:26] Pete: Wow. Okay. That’s pretty rogue, isn’t it? 

[00:06:27] Amber: Yep. 

[00:06:28] Pete: Okay, so that doesn’t happen. Oh, interesting. Embalmed bodies last forever. That’s not true, right? No way. 

[00:06:35] Amber: Nope. So embalming helps to temporarily delay or preserve the body, essentially long enough for the family to be able to say their goodbyes and have their services or celebrations that they wish.

[00:06:46] Amber: It doesn’t last forever. And unfortunately, the decomposition process continues to happen even immediately after death. 

[00:06:52] Pete: Is it like seven to ten days that if you embalm somebody?

[00:06:56] Amber: We can maybe do around, yeah, the 10 day mark. Even [00:07:00] a couple more days, but after that is usually not recommended.

[00:07:03] Pete: Not a good idea. Okay. How about embalming may, because I thought it might, makes the body smell. That’s one I would’ve bought in it. This is the first one I’ve bitten into right here. I’m thinking maybe that was true, that embalming makes the body smell, but that’s not true? 

[00:07:16] Amber: It’s often the opposite.

[00:07:18] Pete: Well, I so assume, right now I think about it. Okay. 

[00:07:20] Amber: So because it temporarily delays decomposition. Those smells associated with that process are delayed as well. And a lot of the chemicals that embalmers use actually have a smell to them, like a sweetened, enhanced smell. So it often doesn’t. It delays kind of that, that smell that we associated.

[00:07:39] Pete: Can I ask an off the grid question? 

[00:07:41] Amber: Sure. 

[00:07:42] Pete: So, in a body, not that you’ve ever opened one up to look, but when a body decomposes after all of that is completed within a casket, how long does it take for that to really happen? 

[00:07:53] Amber: It depends. And I know that’s a hard question.

[00:07:57] Pete: Right. 

[00:07:57] Amber: But it depends on that individual. [00:08:00] So, some people who maybe were in the hospital prior to their death or had surgeries where they have maybe a lot of chemicals in their body already, you know, from all of the medications and such. They have a different process than, or maybe someone who passed away suddenly at their home and they’ve, you know, maybe been found or, you know, it’s all different per person.

[00:08:22] Pete: Sure. Okay. So this one. Don’t even say this is real. Do people actually think that? 

[00:08:27] Amber: Which one is that? 

[00:08:28] Pete: That dead people can sit straight up? 

[00:08:30] Amber: Absolutely. 

[00:08:30] Pete: What do they mean? Like on their own? 

[00:08:32] Amber: I think so. 

[00:08:33] Pete: People don’t believe that. 

[00:08:35] Amber: You just type it into Google and you’ll see countless stories of, oh, I was a morgue technician and there was a dead person in a body bag, and they moved, or they sat straight up.

[00:08:47] Pete: Do you think there’s any possibility to like a movement? Like a spasm of some sort?

[00:08:52] Amber: Yeah. So I, you know, our muscles are still, you know, there’s still some chemicals in our muscles that cause them to fire, especially, you know, think rigor mortis.

[00:08:59] Pete: [00:09:00] Right. 

[00:09:00] Amber: So a lot of that is changing and when the blood is moving out of the muscles, especially after, you know, sometime post death, that can cause a little bit of changes. But, I mean, think about doing crunches or sit ups on the floor. You’re using your back, your abs. 

[00:09:15] Pete: You’re firing it all. 

[00:09:16] Amber: Right?

[00:09:17] Pete: It’s not just. 

[00:09:18] Amber: Right. Think about that and you’re dead. And then having all of those muscles at one time communicate to do the same motion. 

[00:09:26] Pete: Something’s gotta tell that to work. 

[00:09:28] Amber: Right? Exactly. 

[00:09:29] Pete: Supernatural potential. But like, okay. So don’t worry. They’re not going to do, you know, when you go to an open casket review, we’re pretty good. 

[00:09:38] Amber: Yep. 

[00:09:38] Pete: Okay. All right. Oh. This, oh really? Embalmers sew your lips and eyes shut. 

[00:09:47] Amber: Doesn’t happen. 

[00:09:47] Pete: Where’d that come from? 

[00:09:49] Amber: Well, think of the scary movies in the zombie movies when all of a sudden. 

[00:09:52] Pete: The ones I don’t watch. 

[00:09:53] Amber: Yeah, the ones you don’t watch.

[00:09:55] Pete: That apparently you’re okay with. I’m kidding.

[00:09:57] Amber: They have sutures going across their lips and their eyes [00:10:00] and they’re, wooo (zombie noises), you know, doesn’t happen. 

[00:10:02] Amber: And when we’re alive, our face muscles keep our bottom jaw and our top jaw together so we can talk, so we can eat, smile, frown, all of those things. In death, those muscles relax, right? They’re not tense anymore.

[00:10:16] Pete: Closes.

[00:10:17] Amber: Right? So how do we keep the jaw together and not sew the lips? Well, there’s a couple things. We use little wires that we attach just to the top and the bottom jaw, and then we tie the wires together. Keeps the two kind of bones together. For eyes the fluid in our eyes is what creates that plumpness of the roundness of kind of the orbit of our eye.

[00:10:40] Amber: And that deflates after we die. So how do we keep the eyelids down? We use these little kind of caps. They look like contact lenses and they have a rough side to them, and that roughness is what keeps the skin of the eyelid down so that the two lids can stay together. 

[00:10:56] Pete: Wow. 

[00:10:57] Amber: So no suture, nothing like that.

[00:10:59] Pete: But you do [00:11:00] manipulate a little bit to make it work. 

[00:11:01] Amber: Yep. Yep. Absolutely. 

[00:11:03] Pete: Did not know that. I wanna try, I haven’t looked at what you’ve written for this next question. I wanna try and see if I can guess it. 

[00:11:09] Amber: Okay. 

[00:11:10] Pete: Cremated remains are ashes. My take is that it’s almost more sandy. Is that fair? 

[00:11:17] Amber: Well, I think people use the term ash, maybe just out of habit. Or they’re just aware. But when the body is cremated, the fire and the heat burns the body and reduces it to an ash-like consisting. People think it’s ashes, but it’s really small bone fragments, and then that is then compressed and processed to be an ash-like consistency.

[00:11:41] Amber: So people call them ashes, but they’re not ashes per se. They’re not like what you would get being your fire place.

[00:11:47] Pete: It’s not like something you pick up and it gets like black stuff on your fingers. 

[00:11:51] Amber: Correct? Nope, Nope. They are actually bone fragments.

[00:11:54] Amber: And there’s other ways that people, you know, there’s like, what’s new? The water cremation or [00:12:00] alkaline hydrolysis where they don’t use any sort of heat whatsoever and they’re using liquid and alkaline to create that ash-like consistency that’s returned in those cremated domains.

[00:12:10] Pete: So to be clear, these myths are not just things you made up to be fun, like they actually are out there.

[00:12:16] Amber: Nope. Go to Google and you will see all of these in the first couple searches.

[00:12:20] Pete: Like boom, boom, boom. 

[00:12:21] Amber: Yep. 

[00:12:21] Pete: That’s remarkable. So, myths. I’m sure there’s more. 

[00:12:25] Amber: Absolutely. 

[00:12:25] Pete: You probably just took the top.

[00:12:27] Amber: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:28] Pete: Well that’s really good stuff. What an entertaining topic. Is there any other like fun ones that you’re thinking of before we sign off that maybe you didn’t include? 

[00:12:36] Amber: Well, I think I hear often too where people think that during embalming we remove all of their organs. 

[00:12:42] Pete: Really? 

[00:12:43] Amber: Mm-hmm. I hear that often.

[00:12:44] Pete: Why would you do that? 

[00:12:45] Amber: Not the case. They stay with the body. We don’t remove them. I think that goes back to maybe Egyptian time where part of the mummification process was to take out some of the organs to keep them in jars with the deceased, but that’s not [00:13:00] what we do. 

[00:13:00] Pete: This may be a dumb question.

[00:13:01] Amber: No. 

[00:13:02] Pete: When you embalm, do you go in through a vein or does it just go in under the skin? 

[00:13:06] Amber: No, we go in through an artery. 

[00:13:08] Pete: You do? 

[00:13:08] Amber: Mm-hmm. Yeah. 

[00:13:10] Pete: Do you pick one or is it the same one? 

[00:13:12] Amber: We usually pick the same one. It’s usually the carotid artery. 

[00:13:15] Pete: How do you know when it’s fallen done? 

[00:13:17] Amber: So typically, the embalming process is removing the blood from the body and replacing it with embalming fluid chemicals.

[00:13:24] Pete: What do you do with the blood? 

[00:13:25] Amber: It goes right down the drain in the sewer. 

[00:13:27] Pete: Hmm. Really? Is that okay? 

[00:13:28] Amber: Yep, yep. Because just like, our sewer and toilets and all of that, it’s all treated at a water treatment plant. We have backflow preventers to make sure it doesn’t go into the water leak.

[00:13:39] Pete: So what you’re telling me is when I’m working at the sewage plant and I’m looking around, I go, oh, here comes a funeral home. I’m kidding. 

[00:13:45] Amber: It’s all safe. 

[00:13:46] Pete: No, I’m kidding. 

[00:13:47] Pete: All right, well that’s so good. It’s good stuff. And you know what I like about this is we bring a real light to the reality of this.

[00:13:55] Amber: Mm-hmm. 

[00:13:55] Pete: Which is what it’s all about. 

[00:13:56] Amber: Very true. 

[00:13:57] Pete: Amber, have a great day. 

[00:13:58] Amber: Thanks. You too. 

[00:13:58] Pete: Thank you. So long [00:14:00] everybody.