Reed and Bottcher Funerals Ipswich location manager Paul Whear
Reed and Bottcher Funerals Ipswich location manager Paul Whear Rob Williams

Myths busted: A day in the life of a mortician

A LOT happens between somebody dying and being buried or cremated.

It's a process filled with grief and sadness for family and friends as they prepare to say goodbye to their loved one for the last time but it's also an intriguing industry Paul Whear has based the last 10 years of his life on.

The industry is shrouded in myths and misconceptions about what happens to a dead body behind closed doors in those final days before they are buried or cremated.

The Reed and Bottcher Funerals Ipswich location manager, Mr Whear said he moved into the industry in 2007 after he experienced how people dealt with the days just before death while working at hospice.

"At the time we meet with a family they are very much grief stricken and therefore they are feeling very tired," he said.

"The most important part is helping families in their time of grief and guiding them to make the service as memorable for them as possible.

"Sometimes when someone has taken their life due to a suicide, a funeral director is the last person the family wants to see.

"It's very rewarding to help a family in their time of need."

He said it was a delicate process to prepare a body for burial or cremation, one which the family had the option to be heavily involved in.

"Whether someone is going to be buried, cremated, have a service or no service, they will receive the same preparation," he said.

"We give them a bath, we wash their hair. If the family have any clothing they would like their loved one dressed in, we can dress them or place a funeral shroud over them.

"That's because at the last moment the family may say we would like to see the loved one for one final goodbye and we can confidently open the coffin and know that loved one is going to be prepared in a respectable manner.

"In doing the preparation we can ask the family, in particular for a lady, was she a lady who liked going out with make-up on and we can apply make-up. If it's a male we can ask was he a clean shaven gentlemen or did he have a beard. We also ask if the family would like a hair lock, a little portion of their hair to keep in memory."

How is a body cremated?

"The coffin and loved one is placed in the top chamber of the cremator and that will sit there for about an hour and then they fall into the second chamber," Mr Whear said.

"They sit under a direct flame and the timber fragments from the coffin are burned out.

"They're placed in a cooling tray and they run a big magnet through them that will remove any screws or magnetic items or wires from bones so all artificial joints are removed.

"What's left is actual bone ash and if there was any jewellery that doesn't burn down, that's placed into the container of the ashes as well."

Paul's mortuary myths

Busted: Bodies are burnt in a cardboard casket.

"The coffin the family pick for their loved one is the one they will remain in when they go to the crematorium."

"When we hand the coffin and the loved one over to the crematorium, the only thing that will come off is the name plate."

Plausible: Morticians will apply make-up to a person's hands.

"If they have bruising or some form of marking on their hand we will apply some make-up to them to bring them back to a natural colour. If their skin is very fragile we will apply a skin coloured bandage and that prevents any leakage through the skin."

Busted: More than one person is placed in a cremator at one time.

"No, they're not so we can guarantee the ashes are those of the loved family member."



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