Prior to Burial Essay

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The funeral service industry in the United States is discussed. A brief history of how funeral homes and associated services got their start. The various personnel and duties of those personnel are discussed. In addition, the educational and licensing requirements are outlined. A brief analysis of alternate funeral options is offered as well. The death of a loved on is always a painful experience. The funeral service industry recognizes the difficulty of planning a funeral.

The job of individuals in the funeral service industry is to help family and friends design a funeral that meets the needs of the family and friends while also honoring the wishes of the deceased. In addition, funeral directors and other staff members work with different religious groups in order to ease the transition from life to death. There are many aspects of the funeral service industry and they are discussed and analyzed. The history of the funeral service industry is also offered. The funeral service industry has its roots in Chicago.

Chicago has been the national center of the funeral industry since the late nineteenth century when the industry began to become more specialized and personalized (Wilson, 1). Prior to the 1830s, families who required the services of undertakers often dealt with people for whom the funeral service was just a part time job. In the 1830s cemeteries began to be created throughout Chicago. Cemeteries were staffed by gravediggers such as Henry Gherkin who was a Prussian immigrant and one of the citys first gravediggers. However, the job of undertaker was still a part time affair.

Many undertakers also ran other businesses when not helping prepare the dead for burial. These undertakers also sold caskets and provided funeral services (Wilson, 1). The growing population of Chicago prompted the creation of more specialized funeral services. In 1868, the undertakers of Chicago formed the Chicago Association of Undertakers which led to the creation of the Illinois School of Embalming in 1884. In the following decades, many more schools devoted to mortuary science were created. By 1920, embalmers in the state of Illinois were required to be licensed by the state.

The specialization of the funeral service industry meant that funeral directors were viewed with more authority regarding funeral services and the handling of the dead (Wilson, 1). The changes that occurred in Chicago in the funeral industry spread throughout the country and led to the current funeral service industry. Death is a part of life (Clark. 231) and the funeral industry helps ease the transition between the two. There are many services offered that are designed to make dying and what happens afterwards easier to think about. The funeral service business is thriving (Clark, 231).

Living wills have become increasingly more popular due to the thriving funeral industry. In addition, planning a funeral service has become increasingly more complex and funeral homes are now offering the choice to allow them to plan the funeral (Clark, 231). There are more services offered besides these including embalming, cremation, casket sales and burial. One important job an undertaker or funeral director has is to prepare the body for burial. This usually involves embalming and dressing the body. First, the body is drained of all fluids and then stored in alcohol of formaldehyde.

The body is also wrapped in cloths soaked in alcohol or formaldehyde in order to keep it moist. The goal is to embalm a person as quickly after death as possible in order to get better results. This is important to families who plan to hold a viewing of the body prior to the service. In addition, embalmers also try to preserve the integrity of the dead person by attempting to make them appear as much like they did when they were alive. Massage cream is used to soften the skin and make it look more alive. Facial features are set using cotton in the nose and shapers in the mouth.

Finally, the body is dressed, given a manicure and the hair is also styled (Anonymous, 5). Most people choose to use the services of an embalmer even if they plan to eventually cremate the body. This is to allow the family members and friends a chance to view their loved one for the last time. In addition to the embalming process, many funeral homes also offer to sell caskets as well as cremation containers. These range from plain wood to extremely fancy creations. The one eventually chosen depends on the wishes of the family as well as their budget.

Many funeral homes also plan the services including music, flowers, scheduling and burials. This includes taking into account the religious preferences of the family when planning prayers, hymns and liturgy. Similarly, many also offer cremation services. The process of planning a funeral is complex and funeral homes, undertakers, morticians and all those involved must work together to make the process run smoothly. To that end, there are fifty-seven mortuary science schools in the United States that are accredited by the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

From these schools, there are almost 35,000 state certified embalmers and about 32,000 funeral directors in the United States. All together, embalmers, funeral directors and morticians number 139,000 (Anonymous, 5). Funeral directors must also be licensed by the state and this process includes two years of education as well as a one year apprenticeship. They must also pass a qualifying examination in the state where they plan to practice (Anonymous, 7). The last person involved in the funeral service industry is the coroner.

The coroner is responsible for investigating sudden, suspicious, violent and unexplained deaths. In addition, the coroner must also review the deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried, or otherwise disposed of so as to be thereafter unavailable for examination (Anonymous, 8). This must be done before the funeral director can release the body. There are many things commonly associated with funerals today. Many of these relics are from the nineteenth century when funerals began to become more specialized.

These include such things as the coffin, the hearse and the black clothing (Beadle, 870). There is a new trend in the funeral service industry today for alternative types of funerals (Beadle, 870). Many people are reexamining the way funerals have been conducted up until now and realizing that they dont have to follow tradition if they dont want to. For example, many people are opting to be buried in custom built coffins that represent their identity. There have been boat shaped, duck shaped and recycled fruit box versions (Beadle, 870).

Other people are choosing not to wear black by instead wearing colors that represent their loved one (Beadle, 870). The funeral service industry today is similar to what it looked like when it got its start in Chicago. It remains a somber event most often surrounded by black and sadness. Family members and friends choose caskets or cremation containers based largely on their own personal budget. The hymns and prayers that are said during the funeral service are chosen based on religious preferences and the personality of the deceased.

There are a few individuals choosing to go alternate routes but that remains the exception rather than the rule. One change that has been made is with regards to the licensing and education requirements of funeral directors, morticians and embalmers. When the funeral industry got its start in Chicago, the people performing these duties only did it part time as more of a hobby than a profession. They most often had regular jobs also. This changed over time as it was realized that these services were much needed and people in the industry needed to devote their full time attention to the funeral service.

This led to the formation of mortuary science schools that adequately trained individuals to correctly prepare a body and provide the various other services that go along with funerals. The funeral industry is different than most jobs because it relies on death to profit. As a result, it takes dedicated personnel to run funeral homes efficiently. This is why education and training has become so important. Families and friends rely on those in the funeral industry to provide the best funeral possible. This is an important job because the death of a loved one is not an easy thing to deal with.

Anonymous. (2008). Prior to Burial: Preparation of the Body in the United States. Retrieved on September 14, 2008 from http://www. uwosh. edu/faculty_staff/hardt/Death%20Questions/Prior%20to%20Burial. htm. Beadle, Joan. (2001). DEAD: An End to Conveyor Belt Funerals. BMJ, 322 (7290): 870. Clark, Jocalyn. (2003). Death Becomes Us. BMJ, 327 (4808): 231. Wilson, Mark R. (2008). Funeral Service Industry. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Retrieved on September 14, 2008 from http://www. encyclopedia. chicagohistory. org/pages/491. html.

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