When you’re planning cremation services in Burtonsville, MD for your loved one who has died, you may wonder about embalming. Most people have heard of embalming as part of making funeral arrangements, but they don’t really know what embalming is or why it is done.
Embalming is a process that sanitizes and preserves a person’s body after they die. Embalming techniques have been around for thousands of years (Egyptian rulers and royalty were embalmed before they were entombed in the pyramids), but embalming didn’t become a common practice in the United States until after the death of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
President Lincoln had already adopted the embalming process during the American Civil War, because of the staggering number of deaths of American troops around the nation, and often far from their homes. The bodies of the dead soldiers simply would not have made the journeys home without severe decomposition if they had not been embalmed, so it was a common practice in the military.
President Lincoln also had his son, Willie, embalmed after the 11-year-old boy died in 1862. So, it made sense that President Lincoln himself would be embalmed after his death.
But embalming was a practical matter in President Lincoln’s death as well, because his body went on a three-week train ride around the country so that Americans could mourn his death before he was buried in his native state of Illinois.
Three weeks is a long time for an embalmed body, that doesn’t have access to additional preservation techniques, like extreme cold, to hold up without noticeable degradation of the body. So, embalming does have an expiration date.
But, if your loved one is going to be cremated, do they need to be embalmed?
The answer is, “It depends.”
If you are planning on holding a viewing for your loved one before they are cremated, then they will need to be embalmed. A viewing is a cremation service that enables friends and family to pay their respects to your loved one and to offer their sympathy and comfort to you and your family. But, because viewings require that the casket be open, your loved one will need to be embalmed for the service.
If you’re planning to have a funeral service for your loved one before they are cremated, and their body will be displayed during the funeral service, then your loved one will need to be embalmed.
It’s not unusual for people to hold a funeral service for their loved one before they are cremated, because it enables the family and other mourners to have a more traditional funeral experience. This can, not only be very comforting to everyone present, but it can also be a way to blend cremation services so that all the wishes of your deceased loved one and you and your family members can be accommodated and met.
If your loved one is going to be transported to another state or country for viewing and/or a funeral service before they are cremated, then you will need to have their body embalmed. In most cases, it’s illegal to transport a dead body for a viewing or funeral in a remote location, even if the deceased will be there in a day or two after the funeral home receives them.
However, if you’re planning a direct cremation, with services for your loved one to be held after the cremation takes place, your loved one will not need to be embalmed.