In the 1972 classic movie, The Godfather, Vito Corleone calls upon an undertaker who owes him a favor following the startlingly traumatic shooting death of his son, Sonny. “Look what they did to my son,” he cries, imploring the mortician to work magic so Sonny’s funeral could include an open casket. As far-fetched as it may seem, requests for bodily reconstruction are more common (and do-able) in the real world than you might think.
When Cause of Death is Incompatible with an Open Casket
Members of certain cultures and religious sects routinely hold viewings prior to burying their deceased loved ones. In Ireland, for example, a viewing and wake routinely precede virtually every graveside event. Other mourners take comfort in the closure afforded by the final viewing of their loved one’s remains. Unfortunately however, certain instruments of death complicate the physical reconstruction process. For example, murder, suicide, burns, decomposition, head-on collisions, and disease are just a few examples of anatomy damage that is nearly impossible to reverse. Enter body reconstruction specialists.
Foothill Funeral Restorative Specialists
Armed with odd but effective tools of the trade, these funeral directors specialize in making “unviewable bodies” viewable. Our own Samantha Scott is a Senior Embalming Consultant who serves as our Restorative Art Specialist and Special Consultant. She is a Licensed Embalmer who has worked as a Funeral Director since 2004. Samantha says she has known she wanted to be an embalmer and mortician when she was 7 years old.
“I grew up in L.A. in the 1980’s, and I went to a lot of funerals. My family tried to encourage me to go into another field, like nursing. But I have always been passionate about my career.”
Together with other members of the Foothill team, Samantha literally works miracles when it comes to anatomy reconstruction.
Restoration of a dead human body is not for the faint of heart. But for funeral directors, like Samantha, it is all in a day’s work. Less common is the need to restore a body that no longer even resembles its previous form. In such cases, we work like television’s MacGyver, fashioning home-made tools and repurposing everyday items to reverse the effects of death.
“There is a lot of smoke and mirrors involved,” says Samantha. “My best friend is Home Depot. We kind of use whatever is handy. I also use a lot of professional brands that help me make the magic – Dodge, Pierce, and Champion.”
Here are just a few of the products we use — you probably wouldn’t believe the ways:
- Alka Seltzer – repairs jaundice appearance
- Baby Powder – sadly, often used in infant deaths
- Condensed Milk – reduces yellow skin tone
- Chicken Wire – stabilizing and maintaining structure of the head
- Cotton – builds up the appearance of the mouth
- Dental Floss – to tie things together
- Denture Adhesive – to glue things together
- Hair Clips & Pony-Tail Holders – to bind hands together so they appear folded
- Lanolin (Softens the face, reduces the appearance of dry skin.)
- Makeup (Often, with embalming, we don’t use makeup because we are trying to achieve a real-life look, not that of a mannequin.)
- String – ties things together well when hidden under clothing. Also used to tie clothes together.
- Superglue – to closeup puncture marks
- Toilet Tissue –substitute for skin
- Wax – Facial reconstruction
- Plastic & Wooden Dowels – to reconnect body parts, in cases of organ donation
Samantha credits her professional success with her refusal to give up, even in extremely difficult cases, such as accommodating an open casket request for a burn victim.
“No one is an impossible case,” she says, adding her attention to detail is fueled by a desire to provide closure to families in mourning.“Even with the rising interest in cremations, about 50 percent of the people who have lost someone want to see them before burial or cremation. I am always happy to help.”
About Foothill Funeral & Cremation in Glendora, California
When the time comes, if you so desire, we could make sure your body is suitable for an open casket funeral. And, until then, we would value the opportunity to help you select the perfect urn for yourself or a family member or friend or to help arrange a memorable life celebration. Feel free to contact us now to pre-plan your own memorial or at your time of need (626) 335-0615. Our relationship with United Methodist Church and Sacred Heart provide great places for mourners to host funerals and memorials. You’ll love the grandiose yet intimate settings in both locations.