Undertakers -- also known as morticians or embalming technicians -- are in charge of preparing the deceased for viewing and burial. Working in funeral homes and mortuaries, undertakers use care and compassion to treat the deceased with dignity and respect as they carry out their work. Certainly not a career for the squeamish or faint-of-heart, morticians work directly with the dead and use a variety of tools to restore a lifelike appearance in people who have passed away.
Contrary to stereotypes portrayed in movies, morticians do not conduct autopsies, and very little cutting is involved in embalming. Embalming can usually be completed using just two small incisions made using either a scalpel or a pair of surgical scissors. Embalmers do not use cutting tools to remove organs and the entire body is left intact when their work is finished. To keep the incisions open for the embalming process, undertakers use hemostats and clamps to open up the incision site.
Most of the work during in embalming is carried out by a motorized machine that drains blood and other fluids from the body before replacing them with embalming fluids. Formaldehyde is perhaps the best known form of embalming fluid, but is actually one of dozens of different liquids that might be used during the embalming process. Undertakers can be thought of as chemists, as they must analyze the state of a person's remains and determine the exact mixture of fluids to return a lifelike appearance to the person. Some embalming fluids focus on rehydrating the tissues, while others are used to restore natural skin coloring. The trocar is another essential embalming tool morticians use, and it is inserted into the abdomen to remove gas and fluid buildup in the organs.
All embalmers use thread to stitch up the small incisions they made during the embalming process, and in some cases, incisions made by a medical examiner if an autopsy was performed. In some cases, people experience trauma in death and require an extensive amount of restorative art to give them back the appearances they had in life. Morticians are specially trained to use prosthetics to reconstruct various elements of the face, and in some cases can be thought of as plastic surgeons for the deceased.
While embalming fluid can work wonders when it comes to reversing discoloration and temporarily preventing decomposition, it isn't completely effective at replicating the lifelike appearance many people expect to see at funerals. Makeup is used on men and women of all ages to even out skin tone and create the illusion of life. For men and children, makeup is generally subtle and kept to a minimum. For women, a mortician may replicate some of their favorite makeup styles in life based on photographs. Morticians also style the hair of the deceased and dress them in clothing chosen by their loved ones.