I qualified as a funeral director in 1966, and then as an embalmer in 1970. I retired for good in 2007. AMA.


((I, his daughter, am typing for him as he's 77 and you'd be waiting days for him to finish typing a sentence were he to do this himself. Hunt and peck typing is not the way forward! All answers are his though :D))

Edit: It's been fun, thanks!

Comments: 309 • Responses: 66  • Date: 

Libertarian1986178 karma

I have had to bury my child. He was 9 days old and only a few pounds. At the time we just went with whoever I could get an appointment with since it was so emotional for me.

Well looking back I wonder why they charged me the same fee to embalm him as they do adults. From a consumer perspective this doesn't make sense. He was extremely tiny and couldn't possibly have used the same amount of resources and effort.

Am I unjustly upset about it? Is it normal to have flat fees for things like that? (It's hard to tell sometimes if I am being irrational or not because of the nature of the loss)

And of course I can't get any money back or anything like that. I just don't want to sit around being mildly annoyed at someone if they didn't do anything wrong.

morticianted26 karma

I agree that's unfair. The firm I worked for didn't charge for children - coffin and embalming were supplied free of charge.

Mattnsw149 karma

What was the worst thing you did?

morticianted126 karma

As in worst for me? Funeral for a girl who was murdered very brutally. Only four people outside of the police ever saw that body - the murderer, the dogwalker who found her, her father for identification purposes, and myself. We sealed her coffin shut.

Swrdmn21 karma

If that was the case, was there a lot of work you did on her? Or did you know that it was a hopeless case for the open casket?

morticianted15 karma

I advised sealed casket. Especially with how she died and how public it was we were particularly worried about unrelated people sneaking in to have a look.

piggypudding41 karma

What made you want to get into the embalming business? I feel like it's not one of those careers you would envision yourself in as a child.

morticianted61 karma

Prior to being a funeral director/embalmer, I was in the french foreign legion. When I came out of the forces, I was a driver for The Cooperative Group who own food shops and also do funerals as well. One day the funeral service was short of a driver, I was sent and I never got away :)

hurleyburleyundone28 karma

Can you tell us more about your experience in the French Foreign Legion? That sounds like a AMA of it's own.

morticianted5 karma

I've lost my proof over the years, but I'll think about it.

kickash0540 karma

Did you ever have a case (maybe a child) that really broke your heart so badly you almost or didn't complete?

morticianted75 karma

Children's funerals are upsetting, but I felt completing them was a duty.

Funerals for babies were the most upsetting for me.

fb0mbb36 karma

While working, what is something that has grossed you out our scared you?

morticianted44 karma

I've seen a few mutilated bodies in my time.

fb0mbb26 karma

How so? Can you elaborate?

morticianted51 karma

Murder victims. The exacts have to stay confidential out of respect for the families, but during the 80s and 90s, the main party street in this town was extremely dangerous with a lot of violent murders.

crowface8836 karma

Do you have a dark sense of humor?

morticianted16 karma


funkadelicman36 karma

What is the strangest thing you ever experienced?

morticianted102 karma

My ex wife ;)

oxide135735 karma

I hate to be this guy but: Post-mortem boners. Myth?

morticianted21 karma


jakus_ch31 karma

I've got a few questions, so here goes:

  • Do you consider yourself a sad or somber person because of this job, or has the effects of working with dead bodies (and knowing that this person was incredibly special to at least one other person) numbed over time?

  • This might be a tad too personal, but how do you want your body to be dealt with?

  • Is it a high paying field? That's got to be the only reason that people do it, right?

Thanks for answering!

morticianted55 karma

  1. I wouldn't say so, although doing some funerals was upsetting for me, especially children's funerals. I like to think it's made me cherish my friends and family a bit more.

  2. In whatever way my family decide since a funeral is for the living, I think they'd prefer a burial. I've planned out how I want my service to be though. I want it to be at the church I go to every sunday, with the hymns When The Trumpet Of The Lord Shall Sound and the 23rd psalm but not to Crimmand (I want it to Brother James Air, which is the older tune). I've got the full plans written down for them.

  3. It's not high paying, at least not here. It's only high paying if you own the funeral directors.

brandonderrick30 karma

How exactly are bodies reconstructed? I've heard that PVC pipe is used for bones, any truth to this? How are bodies handled? Is modesty protected?

morticianted8 karma

Over here the most we do is facial reconstruction where we use wax. Bodies are afforded the most dignity possible, we keep everything covered as much as we can.

Mattnsw129 karma

serious question

Would you have buried the Boston bomber?

morticianted79 karma

I'd tell his family to go find somebody else.

satanic_jesus23 karma

Although the Boston bomber did terrible things, does this make him unworthy of a proper burial?

morticianted17 karma

No, everyone deserves one. It'd be a very difficult funeral to do due to him being such a hated figure though, way too much hassle.

Vest_Hat23 karma

Is it a legal requirement to play organ music at a funeral? Are funeral directors the same thing as a mortician?

morticianted67 karma

No, I did a funeral with all *NSYNC music before, and I've also done ones with no music at all.

Yes. Mortician is the american term.

rashy1231 karma

I can only assume you played Bye Bye Bye

morticianted39 karma

We did, as the coffin went down into the ground. On request.


The nsync funeral is really sad when you think about it. Nobody yet has lead a long and happy life and also been a hardcore nsync fan.

morticianted16 karma

She was a young girl.

Forestero9 karma


morticianted19 karma

A colleague of mine recently did a One Direction themed funeral for a 14 year old. I know because he was calling around to find anybody with information on the band so he knew what he was working with and my youngest is a big fan.

dmce0119 karma

I don't have a question. I just want to say that the funeral/burial process in this country is absolutely appalling, especially for people who pass with no will. I recently had to bury my 18 year old brother and the process was incredibly predatory and coniving. Your industry exploits the sorrow and fragility experienced by grieving families. It is absolutely egregious.

morticianted20 karma

The company I worked for was bought by the American firm Dignity in the early 90s, and once that happened everything became more commercialized and I was forced to give the hard sell. So I agree.

panken19 karma

Did you do cremation? If so, do bodies really explode when they are in the oven?

Also, did people ask you to do anything strange with the bodies, like weird faces or add a beard or whatever?

morticianted59 karma

I did do cremation, and no, as long as they don't have a pacemaker they won't explode. If a pacemaker is left in a corpse it'll explode, which is why doctors are paid a hell of a lot to verify any corpse doesn't have a pacemaker inside.

I've never done anything like adding beards, but I've had numerous requests for slightly weird clothing choices - I did a funeral for the queen's private secretary's mother, and it was requested she be put in a fishing jacket. I was told she never went fishing when I asked.

Polite_Werewolf18 karma

If there was a zombie outbreak, what would be your zombie plan?

morticianted50 karma

I've got a big stockpile of food in my shed outside, and there's a radio in there too, so probably lock myself in there and just see what happens. Running from them wouldn't be much of an option with my age!

Polite_Werewolf23 karma

... That's actually one of the better plans people have given to me. Usually it's something like "I'll get fifteen machineguns, put armor on my car with a flamethrower on top, and drive up to Alaska to build a zombie-proof fortress."

morticianted224 karma

It works for hiding from my 3 daughters, zombies can't be that much worse right?

A-Savage-Walrus17 karma

Ever have any strange requests during your time from the family's?

morticianted41 karma

I had a request for a funeral where the only music was the theme song to Only Fools and Horses looped over and over.

There's been a lot of strange things asked, but that's one that sticks out, probably because I'm a fan of the show.

Tolham16 karma

how accurate was six feet under?

morticianted13 karma

I've never seen it. Did it air in the UK?

Staying_Anon14 karma

Have you seen the movie Bernie, starring Jack Black as a funeral director? Great movie, very dark but still funny.

morticianted13 karma

No, my daughter said a dvd of that and Six Feet Under might come my way at christmas though.

sirblastalot12 karma

Did you ever find something unexpected inside a person, like a surgical implement or something they swallowed?

Would you rather taxidermy 1 horse-sized duck or 40 duck-sized horses?

morticianted13 karma

Nope, we don't cut them open in the UK. If they're opened up it's at the hospital for a postmortem, so they're the ones who find this stuff.

I don't taxidermy, so neither! If I had to embalm one, and I actually knew the anatomy of both a duck and a horse, I'd choose the horse sized duck.

HowlingBukowski10 karma

I saw a film in my youth (Drop Dead Gorgeous, your daughter may be familiar with it) but in the film there is a character who's job it is to do the deceased's make up/make then look presentable for wakes and open caskets. My question is does that job actually exist and how would one get into that position?

morticianted7 karma

I actually did that job as an embalmer, but I remember hearing in the US that larger firms have cosmeticians specifically who do this job.

DartzIRL10 karma

I' like to be cremated when I die and have my ashes used as part of a concrete mix, which is then used to cast lifesize a statue of myself.

How possible will this be?

morticianted11 karma

No problem, it's just finding the statue maker.

AetherTransmissions10 karma

I have heard that because of bacteria causing decomp even very early on after death in the digestive tract, dead bodies tend to..."release gas", shall we say. Is this true?

morticianted10 karma


Skulty8 karma


morticianted8 karma

I don't know about american law, but you can't in the UK, you have to get proper certificates. However, once you've got their certificates they can be buried on their own land.

MrLogicBit7 karma


morticianted7 karma


FuneralShadow7 karma

I myself dream of being a funeral director/embalmer one day. I actually worked in a funeral home at age 16 as a funeral assistant and we had some unusual requests for services. What is the most unusual request someone has made to you for their/a loved one's service? Edit: I just realized this question has been asked plenty already. So I'll go with: Have you ever had to improvise in preparing the bodies? Like maybe the hairstyle the family wanted just wasn't working or the burial clothing got ruined? I ask because we've had to improvise with people who have had a disease so they were almost literally skin and bones and they looked unnatural in their caskets. Thanks!

morticianted6 karma

Especially with old ladies with wispy grey hair, the family often bring in a picture of when she was 20 and ask for her hair to be done like that! They also fetch clothes that have been put away for years and the person has put on weight since.

Kalae996 karma

Whats the weirdest request you've gotten?

Also, how has the industry changed over the years?


Last question, how much damage can you fix for an open casket (torn skin, bashed in bits, ect)?

morticianted4 karma

Small firms are being bought out by bigger ones who want to make money, so it's much more commercialised.

Cuts, torn skin and bashed in bits are all fixed with flesh coloured wax, so they can be done.

sarantopolis6 karma

Do you ever have to break bones to get people in the proper positioning for open casket? are the suits/dresses the corpses wear cut down the back for ease of putting on? sorry I only have stereotypes to work with here.

morticianted4 karma

No, the joints still work. We refer to breaking the limbs but that's just breaking up the rigor mortis. Once that's gone they're perfectly flexible.

Yes if the clothes are supplied by the funeral directors. If it's something of their own they go on normally.

Dictated_ButNotRead6 karma

Is it ever kinda strange when you have to embalm the body of someone that, if they were alive, would be totally your type?

morticianted6 karma

Odd question - but I suppose so? They don't look as good dead, you can only really make a judgement when you get given pictures from the family to work from.

DearHormel6 karma

Did you ever see a ghost? Anything supernatural?

morticianted4 karma

I have, but not in this job.

allylovesparker6 karma

What was the scariest thing you've had to deal with (in terms of the living, not so much the dead)?

My mom's been in the business for over a decade now (director, dispatcher, now administrator), and (one of) the scariest moments for her was a satanist funeral she had to work a while back. It was for a small child who died. Parents were definitely strung out on something--dad was at least acting possessed. They also tried to do something weird to the body before the service was over.

morticianted7 karma

Nothing on that level!

TheRagingDingleberry5 karma

Are all bodies embalmed before burial?

morticianted10 karma

No, it's down to the next of kin. It's illegal to embalm without the permission of the next of kin.

QuibbleMcMurphy5 karma

Have you ever had the urge to start laughing uncontrollably in a situation when you really shouldn't? I sometimes get this problem in inappropriate situations and it's never funny for me, I think it's a genuine condition I have!

morticianted9 karma

Yes. Try biting your cheek, that works well for me!

cragdweller5 karma

The only reason I could ever think of to get a tattoo was to get whoever embalms me to laugh and I would go out of this world cracking somebody up one more time.

What would the tattoo be and where would I put it? Is there someplace they will always insert a needle?

morticianted5 karma

I can't think of anything in particular, but we will always use the general stomach area :)

NeedYourKarma4 karma

My mom recently died. While at the funeral home, my dad asked if anybody had ever requested to be dropped out of a plane, have their dead body eaten by wolves, and then pooped out by the wolves to return to the wolves. My brother then asked about human taxidermy. Have you ever had to deal with these questions over 40 years? My family is not your typical family.

morticianted4 karma

No, nothing like that!

Molarman4 karma

What happens to the gold teeth/crowns that so many people have? Do they go to the family?

morticianted6 karma

They go with the dead body, they're not removed.

AlohaButtSlutt4 karma

Do they really put a butt plug in you after you die? How is that process completed "respectfully?"

morticianted3 karma


Dr3amsOfReal1ty4 karma

Do you think your occupation has changed your outlook on death?

morticianted5 karma

Not really, I was a soldier for quite a few years so I was already pretty accustomed to it.

momin8r3 karma

Anyone famous?

morticianted5 karma

I did the Queen's private secretary's mother in law. That's the only one I can think of who's known further than just inside this town.

Palisides3 karma

After doing your job for as long as you have, what has it taught you about people?

This may be too personal- but have you ever had to bury someone that you knew?

morticianted6 karma

Everybody is different and everybody has different ideas I guess?

I did my mother in law's burial and I embalmed many people I knew.

JoylessMedic3 karma

Will you be buried or interred at the same funeral home you work at?

morticianted5 karma

No. I've got myself a plot in the church I attend every sunday.

megamouth23 karma

You say you've worked for the Co-Operative Group - what was your reaction to the Dispatches programme on Channel 4 a few years ago that portrayed them to treat the deceased rather badly and pressure-sell to prospective customers?

morticianted4 karma

I didn't watch it because I didn't have a TV for a few years, but I was disgusted by what I read in the papers.

Emmalouwho23 karma

Why does the local funeral home here have a commercial with them smiling really big? I understand the want to smile but it's just weird.

morticianted5 karma

They probably think it's inviting.

UberMonkey213 karma

I heard Keith Richards snorted his dad's ashes. What's the weirdest request you ever had to accommodate and what was the strangest story that you heard about your profession?

morticianted10 karma

The strangest I suppose was a widow who didn't get on with the rest of her husband's family. She asked me to bury an empty casket while she took the ashes so the family couldn't visit them.

Nutella_Bacon3 karma

What shampoo do you use?

morticianted8 karma

I'm bald so I just use whatever's cheapest to remove grease.

ultradip3 karma

How does one work on small children without crying?

morticianted12 karma

With great difficulty.

blindfishing3 karma

Do you imagine stories or personalities for the people you embalm?

morticianted6 karma


AcesAndFails2 karma

I'm a student in the Mortuary Science program in my state, and I am also interning at a funeral home in a big city- is there any advice you can give a 20 year old who is getting into the business?

morticianted5 karma

If it's like it is here, get subscribed to trade magazines since the best jobs are advertised in those. Always aim for being in the position of being able to open your own funeral home.

bigcatdaddy3042 karma

What was the grossest thing/item/person to ever come through?

morticianted3 karma

Anything out of the ordinary gets moved to the hospital for coroners, and they can decide to bag it in an opaque bag. Most of the odd things that come through I've never seen.

[deleted]2 karma


morticianted3 karma

No, I think I've developed quite the pokerface.

smeegarific2 karma

How do you want your remains to be tended to? Cremated or embalmed?

morticianted6 karma

Embalmed (since that is done all the time for hygeine up until the funeral 0 it's temporary), but my family can do whatever they'd like with me after. A funeral is for the living.

ZlayerCake2 karma

Have you had to embalm a splattered person (jumper, roadkill, etc..) and how do you do that?

Pour them into the coffin?

morticianted6 karma

Any unnatural death goes to the coroner, and something that bad will be put into an opaque plastic bag before we get it. Then it's just putting the bag in the coffin and sealing it.

DrewWasHere0072 karma

Did you ever have to "work" on someone that you recognized or knew?

morticianted2 karma

I've embalmed friends and I arranged my mother in law's funeral.

AverageAussie2 karma

Do you get many pets buried with their owners? My neighbour passed away last week and i found out that the family had his dog put down (was an old dog too btw) so they could be buried together. What kinda puts it into the weird column for me is that his wife is still alive...

morticianted5 karma

I buried the odd dog specifically put down to be with the owner. We got a lot of dogs or cats ashes asked to be buried with the owner though.

JosephDolan1 karma

Hey there. I have heard this before, and I am REALLY interested in finding out the truth about it. I have heard that when a body is buried, they are dug up later to get the coffin back, and when someone is cremated, you don't necessarily get THEIR ashes. Is there any truth to this?

morticianted4 karma

At least in this country, no coffins are dug up unless it's for a criminal investigation and we don't resell them. Wasn't that on a 1000 ways to die episode where a man used to dig up bodies and resell the coffins then he fell in acid?

The ashes are the remaining bones ground down. I can't 100% guarantee you get the right ones, since I'm not there watching that body all the way through the process but I'd say 99.9% of the time you get the right ones.

hotsliceofjesus1 karma

Hi thanks for taking the tame to do this, some questions for you:

  1. Have you ever had perform a funeral for someone who had beliefs that called for unusual or strange preparations prior to burial or cremation. If so what were they and were you able to accommodate them?

  2. Have you ever refused to embalm or perform a funeral for someone based on what they did in life (i.e. criminal, personal enemy, etc.)?

  3. I am assuming you have done funerals for people with a wide variety of beliefs and customs. Were there any particular faiths or religions whose philosophy about death and the afterlife that changed your own perspective?

Answer as many as you want thank you.

morticianted4 karma

  1. I managed to do every one I've said I would. I've done lots of jamaican funerals and they count a funeral by the amount of cars so you may have 200 cars following the hearse. I've done gypsy funerals and those are always interesting.

  2. Never. I embalmed somebody I didn't like, but I didn't do it any differently to other people.

  3. I've done everything from muslims to hindus. I wouldn't say anything has changed my perspective, but they made me think.

RandomSealion1 karma

Have you ever been subjugated to do anything illegal or immoral to protect the funeral home you worked at? You see all these horror stories on the news....

morticianted3 karma

No, thankfully I wasn't involved in anything bad!

yourdadsanazi-46 karma

Have you seen dead boobies you just couldn't resist?

yourdadsanazi-38 karma

I'm sorry o thought this was an ask me anything. Not an ask me some things. Go get a job with the nsa

morticianted24 karma

You can ask, but I don't have to answer!