Did you know such phrases as 'saved by the bell' and 'graveyard shift' come from funeral service?

Comments: 2928 • Responses: 83  • Date: 

iamaredditer1007 karma

What is the strangest request that the deceased had wanted done for their service?

spicemaster2422157 karma

We had a dead clown one time. This person was buried in full clown costume with makeup and all. The whole family was clowns, all the friends were clowns. And at the familys request, the funeral directors were clowns too. They supplied costume and did our makeup. Family and friends had 1 tear drop painted on near the eye. Definitely my strangest.

lordeddardstark1168 karma

Bring back the "Fun" in Funeral

spicemaster2421499 karma

I put the 'fun' in funeral

pennNteller738 karma

I heard that the funeral procession consisted of the hearse and one little car driving erratically while making "Beep Beep" noises.

lordeddardstark637 karma

Also, teeny weeny casket with 8 corpses inside.

pennNteller899 karma

Every time someone bent over the casket to pay their respects the flower on his lapel squirted them in the face.

spicemaster242469 karma


screamsleeper2 karma

I would have been laughing my head off if I had to go through that funeral. Had a good laugh irl, good shit.

spicemaster2429 karma

all I could hear while they lowered the casket was 'pop goes the weasel'

caesar1683 karma

Have you ever seen the show Six Feet Under? If so, how realistic do you think their portrayal of funeral homes is?

spicemaster2421045 karma

I have seen every episode. I think they did a good job making it look real.

palsar127 karma

Would you say you're a fan? Or did you just feel obligated to watch it because you knew people would bring it up?

spicemaster242269 karma

I became addicted to that show very quickly. The stories were good and their portrayal of the business is fairly accurate

ethical_slut654 karma


spicemaster2421645 karma

That's how you get a zombie, sir.

swimallnite651 karma

What was the grossest job you've had to do so far?

Thank you for the AMA..this sub needs more everyday AMAs like we use to have!

spicemaster2421217 karma

We had this house call one time. The lady was dead a while. On the couch all bloated as hell. When we started moving her, the abdomen busted. I had goo and maggots all over my leg.

swimallnite430 karma

Omg did you throw up?!

spicemaster2421033 karma

no, but I threw my suit away.

8bit_lady_parts784 karma

I too am a funeral director/ embalmer. We call maggots disco rice. I hate them so much. Pro tip: Kerosine kills maggots fast. So happy you are doing this AMA!

spicemaster242741 karma

use a real high index and watch those little fuckers put some pep in their step. they don't like the chems at all.

fusionfreak578 karma

Ever had strange occurrences of a supernatural nature?

spicemaster2421581 karma

every so often, yes. One time I had prepped this man. I came into the prep room to do some laundry and things. As I walked passed him, I noticed a small piece of lint in his ear from the towel I used to dry him off. I took my gloved pinky and kinda swiped it out. I proceeded to fold some towels. The next thing I know I felt something touch my ear, near the ear opening. It felt just like someone stuck their finger in my ear but there was noone around. The next day I was looking through the obituaries (i read the obituaries of the cases i work on) and sure enough this man had one. It mentioned how much of a prankster and fun he was. I guess I was his last prank.

spicemaster2421315 karma

My first experience at work was when I first started my embalming career. I worked at an independent mortuary service. I had just started my shift and was using a restroom in the back. When I came out, I heard what sounded like a girl sobbing and the sound of feet shuffling around on the floor. The floor was kinda gravely and had a distinct sound if you scooted your feet on it. The sound was coming from around a corner that led into a small room where we would store embalmed bodies ready to be delivered to their respective funeral home. I figured someone was upset and crying. So I kinda snuck in, still hearing the sobbing. When I peaked around the corner, the room was empty. No living person in there. I noticed that there was only one body in there as well. A young girl. She shot herself in the side of the head. I wasn't scared per say, but I'm pretty sure you could audibly hear my heart beat.

St1ng226 karma

When it comes to these supernatural experiences, do morticians like telling these stories to each other or do they not say anything out of fear of being thought of as crazy?

spicemaster242261 karma

I have shared stories with mortician friends, But I wouldn't have a serious supernatural conversation with the owner or anything. I can't even say that it is supernatural or ghosts or anything like that but the fact remains that weird shit does happen, sometimes with no logical explanation.

SpinYourMeat552 karma

Did you ever bring in a hot plate and cut off a slice because you had the hunger?

spicemaster242903 karma

No, but one time I was working on an autopsy. It was getting close to lunch and I was deciding what to have. I had bbq ribs that day.

CaptainPondo544 karma

I just did my first head autopsy today! But in the future, what are some things us ME people can do to better prepare the bodies for the mortuary?

ninja edit: morgue -> mortuary

spicemaster242884 karma

Wow! You mean one of you actually care about the mortician? The most frustrating thing for an embalmer with a posted case is that when you guys remove the throat, tongue sometimes the carotids are cut or nicked so high up it becomes a very difficult challenge to get the head injected. And the head is the most important part. Whenever this happens we say, "must've been training day". I would say try your best to preserve the arteries, especially the carotids. Veins don't matter in a posted case.

tribbing1337519 karma

When you're slow, business wise, is it pretty dead in the shop?

spicemaster2421243 karma

in the busiest of times, the body shop is always dead.

kelsodenco195 karma

Is the same true for when business is good? Pretty dead in the shop?

spicemaster242891 karma

it will always be a dead end job

machinistdon512 karma

I work in eye tissue donation. I've had people refuse because "They need them to see their loved ones when they get to heaven." What exactly happens to the eyes during an embalming?

spicemaster242750 karma

The eyes usually start to flatten after death. Think of an old grape. They do, however, remain with the decedent. We don't remove them. You can use what is called an eye cap to put over the flattened eyeball to recreate the natural curvature of the eye. You can also inject tissue builder directly into the eyeball and fill it up. And sometimes, the embalming fluid will fill the eye to normal size.

Oztek466 karma

Have you ever had to deal with children? What was it like?

spicemaster242814 karma

Yes, I have embalmed many children from babies to toddlers and up. It never really bothered me. Probably because I didn't have kids at the time. I've seen people get in this business with kids and absolutely cannot embalm or even attempt a child. I now have a 3 year old, but it hasn't changed my ability to effectively prep a child.

Takki334 karma

IF your child, by any given circumstance would die, would you prefer to prepare the body or someone else to do it?

spicemaster2421097 karma

I would not allow anyone else to touch her.

zeroeznonez104 karma

I work in an ER and anyone who functions in a patient care capacity there for any amount of time seems to learn to cope with having bodies lying around for a bit, removing intubation/IVs for family viewing, etc. Maybe not all in the same way, but effectively enough that the cadaver might as well be an object. Do you find this is a necessity for your job too? And if you had to work on a family member, do you think your emotional attachment would impair your performance either during that time, or thereafter? It seems to me a little empathy for the family is good, but too much could be mentally toxic to someone in your line of work. Thanks for answering.

spicemaster242120 karma

Yeah, I view the bodies as my work. You have to detach a little. I don't try and think about what kind of person they were, what they did. It is irrelevant to me at the time of the embalming. I have a job to do. I have been entrusted with this families loved one and they deserve my very best ability to make this person look natural and dignified.

People deserve the opportunity to view their loved one in a dignified manner, no matter what happened to them. No matter if it takes 8hrs to complete and after all my work if I brought the family just a little comfort, if I've made this experience just a little bit easier for them then I can sleep well that night.

I have embalmed an uncle. I wasn't real close to him though. I suspect I would embalm my loved ones when the time comes. we'll see. I think I could detach enough to get it done.

4a4a458 karma

  • Have you ever been physically attracted to one of the bodies?
  • Have you ever killed anyone in order to increase your own business?
  • Have you ever had to handle a body that was so disfigured/decomposed/etc that it made you sick?

spicemaster242948 karma

-I've never been attracted to a dead body.

-Never killed anyone but some funeral homes joke when it's slow. "better take my pillow to the nursing home"

-the odors associated with decomposition will irritate your system. if you are around it long enough you can feel sick to your stomach and vomit. I have felt sick around it, but never vomited. I have a pretty strong stomach

swimcool08385 karma

how is saved by the bell related to the funeral service?

spicemaster2421046 karma

back in the early days it was a huge fear to be buried alive. This has to do with the fact that medical science was shit at the time. Some people were just comotose, they couldn't tell if you were dead or not. That's why there was a 'wake' service where they would lay you out in state to see if you would 'wake' up. So these caskets were developed with a hole through the top, a string was placed in the deceased's hands and ran up out of the hole, through a tube to the top of the ground. The string was attached to a bell. So if you weren't actually dead, you could ring the bell. You would in fact be, 'saved by the bell'.

spicemaster242895 karma

they would also have guards working over nights in the cemeteries to ward off grave robbers and listen for these bells. 'the graveyard shift'

ihatethelivingdead38 karma

Guessing here... Was this from when people would be buried with a string attached to a bell that was above ground, so they could ring the bell if they woke up to find they had been buried alive?

spicemaster24240 karma

that's it

enferex357 karma

When you cremate someone, how often do the ashes from previous customers make it into the current customer's mix?

spicemaster242603 karma

there is some co-mingling involved, although very minimal. It is unavoidable, you can't get every single grain out. As long as you sweep it properly after each person, it is very minimal.

Paddling384 karma


spicemaster242468 karma

Not really. Good, caring people usually gravitate to this career and excel at it. I'm glad you had a positive experience.

Nurse_J301 karma

I am an ICU nurse. Do you guys really appreciate when we leave the central lines in? I was told it saves you a step, but I always wondered if was true.

spicemaster242331 karma

I appreciate it due to the fact that dead blood doesn't coagulate and leaving the lines in saves a lot of leakage on my stretcher and in the vehicle. I can see where it would save an embalmer a step in that they just leave it in. But such an embalmer would be lazy. All medical tubes, IV lines, etc should be removed during embalming and the holes left behind are sutured and glued.

perrla19 karma

Do they teach you in school how to pull various lines? I've sent people to the funeral home with urinary catheters in for various reasons (mostly I forget about them). Am I making a mortician somewhere swear at me?

spicemaster24224 karma

no, it's all very easy for us to remove.

vicisaran297 karma

What's the most difficult job you've had to do? As in, have there been any bodies that have been especially difficult for you to handle, either because of size (obese, dwarf, etc.) or condition (mangled, gruesome death, etc.)?

Do you think you will or (have you already) worked on a close family member?

Any stories of unsatisfied (living) or belligerent customers you can share? As someone who worked in customer service for many years, I imagine a mortician has to do at least a little customer service from time to time.....and we all know how great dealing with the public can be.

Do you personally sleep like the dead at night?

spicemaster242547 karma

-decomps, obese, autopsied skin & bone donors, major trauma from car accidents.. these can be some of the most difficult to work with.

-I've embalmed an uncle and I suspect I will embalm my own mother when the time comes.

-people are people, you know. Funeral service is all about customer service. The families are very hypersensitive and can be set off over the smallest of details. Some are very easy to deal with, others are just angry over the death (which is normal) but these are the ones that give you trouble.

spicemaster242501 karma

and yes, I sleep very well at night.

SheeEttin58 karma

Have you ever laid down in a coffin?

spicemaster242147 karma

yes, they are not comfortable.

AlwaysaskforProof285 karma


catsandtuesdays94 karma

What happens when the certification expires?!

spicemaster242233 karma

Have to renew every 2 years.

BossingtonDC19 karma

Was waiting for you.

spicemaster24269 karma

well, here I am.

mullerjones282 karma

Did you go into the business by choice?

spicemaster242722 karma

Yes I did. I was fascinated by the industry as a kid. When I was 12, there was a bad head on collision near my house. A man in a truck didn't make it. My family and I were standing around with all the other neighbors when the coroner arrived. He pronounced, then they took him out and put him on a stretcher, his head turned to the side looking straight at me. I remember being curious as to what happens to people when they die, as far as the physical body.

IamVeryLost273 karma

Are women creeped out by your career choice?

spicemaster242687 karma

Some are. I like to date other morticians or nurses. They seem to understand and are over the whole novelty of it all.

BIueRanger200 karma

You seem way 2 calm about a head turning and looking at you when you are 12 lol

spicemaster242307 karma

it was exciting for me, lol

motown_missile264 karma

Other than the Clown Funeral, any other "funny" funerals that stand out in your memory? By funny I mean something memorable or humorous happened, or the attendees did something that you recall as being unusual in the context of normal funeral behavior.

spicemaster242613 karma

One time we had a person who did some acting and modeling in California. A hand model. The family came in early for the visitation to set up pictures and things. I show them in, help them get started then leave them so they can do their thing. I come back in about 10 min to check on them and just about every picture they put up was this persons hands from the various ads they did. There were some family photos, but most were a pair of hands. It was funny to me because most people will put up whole pictures.

beowulf777258 karma

When you say farewell to somebody in public and shake their hand do you say "I'll be seeing you"?

If so, what is their reaction?

spicemaster242754 karma

I've said it to elderly family members. "see ya soon!" I usually get a chuckle. Another fun thing is to carry a tailoring tape measure. If someone ever tries some stupid stunt or something, bust it out and start taking their measurements. Gets a laugh every time.

AgentDropBear219 karma

As someone who works closely with the recently deceased, how has it affected your own belief/disbelief in any kind of afterlife?

spicemaster242630 karma

I have heard enough stories from families and have had enough experiences around the funeral home to feel that there is something else afterwards.

yyx9214 karma

Hey Mortician. I've worked with the dead for a few years in my life. One time I picked up a woman who OD'd and I believe had been ruled dead for over a day. When I put her in the body bag, I started talking to the coroner. While my attention was distracted, the bag started rubbing against my leg. I could feel the blood flush out of me like a tidal wave and literally turned bone white. I was told this was caused by the gases escaping the body. Do you see this phenomenon often or at all?

spicemaster242447 karma

so the bag filled with gas and pressed against your leg? I've never seen that. Sometimes when you move them, air escapes the throat and they make noises. Sounds like a snore.

BoomerKing203 karma

Were you, at any point, disgusted with/by your job? If so, how did you get over it?

spicemaster242706 karma

When you are new in this business, there will be a time when you step back and say, "what the fuck am I doing". Mine was at mortuary school during embalming lab. The county would have their cases embalmed at the school for practice. The deceased was an autopsy and had no legs. I was just looking at her, autopsy incisions open, the empty cavity inside. Her hands looked as if to be gripping the edge of the table. Her mouth wide open because we haden't closed it yet. She looked like she was screaming silently in pain. That was my wtf moment, you get over it.

Dirtchief193 karma

Id like to get into this business myself. Is there any sort of internship involved? Id love to know.

spicemaster242285 karma

My state requires attendance at a mortuary school to obtain a provisional license. You can then move into a 'student' or 'intern' position at a funeral home.

Mackydude180 karma

What's an average day on the job like?

spicemaster242308 karma

it depends on what's going on. an average day you might have a funeral service, meet with a family for arrangements, run death certificates to the doctors that are not online, pick up a body from a hospital

Mackydude142 karma

So a mortician is the person who prepares bodies for funerals then?

spicemaster242275 karma

Yes. Mortician is a term that applies to a person who is both funeral director and embalmer. In my state, not every funeral director is an embalmer, but every embalmer is a funeral director. The embalmers will prepare a body for burial.

fullblownaydes2177 karma

Have you seen the Linklater film Bernie? If so what did you think? If not then you really need to.

spicemaster242130 karma

I have not seen it yet but I plan to.

andreasxc167 karma

What the most 'interesting' death that occurred to a person you mortified?

spicemaster242559 karma

Lot's of interesting deaths. I embalmed a man that was found dead, leaning over a balcony in the front of his house. It was October and with all his decorations, neighbors thought he also was a decoration. He was there for days.

spicemaster242556 karma

another time there was an old couple walking down a main road. A truck drove by carrying sheet metal. One flew off near them and decapitated both of them.

B_Vainamoinen159 karma

How do you think the hospice movement has affected the funeral business?

spicemaster242254 karma

We actually work very closely with hospice organizations. They can't refer business to you but they're good to have on your side.



spicemaster242507 karma

I think this occupation helps you accept your own mortality. I have no fear of death.

loudest_mime157 karma

Have/Will there ever be a job you refuse to do? ..like under any circumstances of the body/family/whatever

spicemaster242356 karma

I've seen pictures and have heard about people being embalmed and placed on a motorcycle, stood up in the corner, in a recliner.. This all seems ridiculous and disrespectful to me. Especially if the deceased did not request it. I say I would refuse to do this to someone but who knows. I mean if the family really wants it.

defectiveburger148 karma

awhile back, a firefighter posted a photo of the..erm...cork used to hold internal organs in. Do those giant cork things really exist, and do you really have to insert them?.....

spicemaster242270 karma

i'd have to see a picture. They do make anal plugs that 'screw' in to prevent leakage. The anus and vagina are usually packed with surface embalming chems and cotton to help prevent leakage. Not everyone will leak from these areas though.

pixiesqueeze136 karma

Would you be embalmed yourself? Or would you want to be cremated?

Do you do cremations? Which is more common, cremations or embalming?

spicemaster242238 karma

I'm ok with being embalmed and buried. I'm also ok with being cremated. I will let my family choose the method which best suits them at the time. We do cremations also, yes. The cremation rate is on the rise, big time. Our firm is 60% cremation.

enferex135 karma

Have you ever completed a job, and then realize a few weeks later that you forgot to do some important thing? Like... crap! I forgot to retrieve my cellphone out of the coffin.

spicemaster242177 karma

Sometimes things are forgotton or left behind. Usually our equipment. One time I was on an out of town service/graveside. 2hrs away. I ended up forgetting the pew markers in the church. It happens.

LegendOfMax134 karma

Hey! Thanks so much for this. I think this is my first time actually asking a question on r/IAmA, actually.

Anyway, I live in New Orleans. And if you've ever been there, you'd know that we pretty much put our dead on display. Because of that, and the inordinate amount of funerals that I've attended in my 19 years on earth, I've found that I have a fascination with death. More specifically, the traditions that are synonymous. I've put serious thought into becoming a Mortician, but as of now, I don't think that it's the right choice for me. I thank you for your service.

I have to know, can you give me one singular moment when you sat back, perhaps after a funeral, and thought: wow. I did a good thing today?

spicemaster242250 karma

When a family member hugs and thanks me for whatever. It makes it so worth it. It can be a thankless career path. You gotta pat yourself on the back and say attaboy because noone else is gonna tell you. But when it comes from the family you served, it is very rewarding.

WNCaptain129 karma

Love the title.

I heard somewhere that morticians hang bodies on a hook via a cut in the back of their neck. Is this true?

Thanks for the AMA!

spicemaster242328 karma

No! But that would be awesome! j/k. It's funny to me about exactly how little the general public knows about this industry. It's a myth. People are embalmed on their backs. Another myth is that we cut off the legs of tall people so they fit in the casket. Our secret: put something uner the legs so that the knees are bent.

WNCaptain103 karma

This might have already been asked, but what is the most common thing that the public thinks about the industry that isn't true?

Thanks for the reply! :D

spicemaster242240 karma

the misconception that every funeral director is filthy rich. you might make a decent living, but only the owners get rich.

Filmmaker_mike109 karma

Who would you recommend this job to? Like what kind of person would make a good mortician?

spicemaster242376 karma

It's funny. I was a waiter for many years in my younger days. I always say, If you can be a successful waiter, you can be a successful funeral director. They are similar in ways. They both wait on families, both provide what should be excellent customer service. Just that one puts a pizza in the oven, the other puts a body in the oven. But really anyone who is good with people and customer service should do well.

enferex108 karma

Have any corpses phones somehow made it into the mortuary and gone off while you were performing an embalming?

spicemaster242161 karma

We usually turn them off if we come across them. The family can turn it back on if they want to.

Kobetz103 karma

Do funeral directors always slice the back of an outfit in half so it's easier to slip on in two pieces?

spicemaster242246 karma

It's funeral director preference. I always slice the back of tshirts, shirts, and jackets. It just makes it easier to dress. I don't like jostling around with the body incase they purge some fluids. You can get the pants on without cutting unless they are too small. I work with a guy that cuts nothing, I chuckle as he struggles with a body.

8bit_lady_parts96 karma

Mouth closure: what do you prefer? Dental tie? Mandible suture? Or the needle injector?

spicemaster242163 karma

first choice for people with teeth is the needle injector. Mandibular suture for no teeth. I have perfected my technique. I never have a visible divet under the chin.

nionvox95 karma

Do you ever get weird requests about the body from family members? I went to a funeral where they had the (open) coffin propped up so the dude was standing up, it was bizarre. The mortician said they used a brace up his legs/back to make him sit still >_<

spicemaster242193 karma

I've never had a request like that, but you do what you do to please the family. I often get requests to put a little smile on their face.

SadlyNaiveGirl90 karma

Hi. First of all: Thanks for your service.

  • What does a dead body smell like?
  • What exactly, as a mortician, do you do?

spicemaster242190 karma

depends on what happend to it. Burned bodies smell like burned meat, no different than if you burnt a steak. Electrocuted bodies have a sweet scent to them, reminds me of roasted marshmallow. Decomps can be really horrible to be around and if you're around the long enough it will make you sick. -I am a licensed funeral director and embalmer. I make arrangements with families, I work on funeral services, I embalm all our bodies at the funeral home. I run errands, I take clergymen, hospice people out to lunch sometimes. There's a lot to do.

Bodark4388 karma

How many religions can you accommodate? There are funeral homes that specialize, say in orthodox Jewish funerals, but are you supposed to be able to handle anyone who calls you?

spicemaster242143 karma

The majority of our church services are Catholic. But we have experience with LDS, protestant, lutheran, methodist, etc

LockNessMonstar57 karma

What's your salary? Enough to lend me tree fiddy?

spicemaster24247 karma

I make a good living. Although, I'll never be rich on my current salary.

TishraDR53 karma

Have you ever an Orthodox Jewish funeral service? If so, can you explain some of the nuances to me?

spicemaster242129 karma

It's been a while. There are Jewish funeral homes here. They typically bury the next day. No embalming, if they do embalm you have to save the blood in jars to bury with them. Orthodox Jewish believe that part of your soul resides in the blood. That's why the body is usually intact. Typically in a wood casket, all wood, no metal parts. That's about all I recall without looking it up.

DirtPile49 karma

Are you familiar with the Ask A Mortician video series? That's a buddy of mine.

spicemaster24253 karma

I haven't heard of that, sounds interesting.

Boberts0000142 karma

How old are you?

spicemaster242109 karma

just turned 35

Flamewall2640 karma

How long did it take for you to come up with the title?

spicemaster24294 karma

right away when I decided to do the AMA

GojiraWildChild36 karma

I've read some articles claiming morticians get looked down upon by every day people. Have you ever had this experience when telling someone about your profession?

spicemaster24282 karma

Some people do get all weird when I tell them what I do. In my everyday life, I don't want anyone to know for this reason. Others find it fascinating and want to know all about it.

Yodaman62622 karma

How did you like Bernie?

spicemaster24220 karma

haven't seen it, but I want to.

TheReasonableCamel12 karma

What's the weirdest thing you have found on a body?

Also we need proof.

spicemaster24255 karma

I added proof. One time we made a house call. The deceased lady was over 500 pounds. We just wrapped her up in the sheets and blankets she was on and dragged her out. When we eventually got her on the prep table and started taking the sheets off, all this debris started coming out. Potato chip bags, candy wrappings, 2-liter coke bottles. Then I hear a clang on the ground, the lady had a locked & loaded glock.

Dur_Pepper4 karma

I'm honestly kind of intrigued. How would one begin the path toward that career?

spicemaster2425 karma

I was always interested in it as a kid. My favorite movie genre has and always will be horror. I think my young mind was warped and desensitized enough for this career to be a reality for me.

SenselessOne4 karma

How often do you receive a body that is already partially or heavily decomposed? Are these harder to work with? Seems as though it would be a very uncomfortable experience.

spicemaster2428 karma

we get a decomp every so often. they are typically for cremation so I don't have to mess with them that much. You will never forget your decomp cases though. The bad thing is the odors. These odors associated with decomposition are an irritant to your system. After a while, it can and will make you feel queesy and some will even vomit.

Nazrel1062 karma

Do you ever do anything silly or leave anything hidden in the bodies? like leaving your name or initials hidden cleverly?

spicemaster24219 karma

I never mess with the bodies like that. I take my career very seriously. We never talk bad or make fun of the deceased or mess with them in any way. but the living, well you're all fair game.

polarbear22170 karma

How do you like working with a bunch of stiffs?

spicemaster2423 karma

The general public sometimes thinks we just sit around embalming dead bodies all day. Unless you are strictly an embalmer for a mortuary service, this is not the case. The actual embalming is a very small part of the big picture. Most of my time is spent with living, breathing, hurting people. And believe you me, the living is much more frightful than the dead.

[deleted]-3 karma


spicemaster24213 karma

it always goes back to necrophilia