The Dirty Truth About The Clean Corpse

I’ve been working in the funeral industry for a little over 5 years now and have certainly dealt with my fair share of dead bodies in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and level of decomposition. And if there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that there is only one kind of body that is truly horrific. The living body. Yup. You heard me you dirty dirty mouth-breather.

You. Are. Disgusting.

Your warm living body is a perfect breeding ground for a wealth of bacteria and viruses. That’s right. Every breath you take to keep yourself alive, also keeps those dirty replicating scummy scum bags alive. And, with every sniffle, sneeze, cough into your hand and then touch of a door knob, you spread those little monsters all over so that your friends-and even poor unsuspecting morticians-can share the wealth and lose their health!

But when you die?

Well, with the exception of very few diseases, you’re pretty much harmless. And here’s the thing, when you aren’t embalmed, meaning you’re not having all of your blood and fecal matter pushed out of your body, you’re even safer!

And, the other thing? Well, when people say that they are terrified of falling ill from being around a rotting corpse, my question is, just how long did you plan on waiting before you buried grandma anyhow? Five months!? And were you planning on keeping her in a hot house with her favorite orchids?

Guys! A corpse does not immediately rot. And when you spend as much time with them as I do, you realize that they aren’t even really a corpse. They are the vessel that your friend or family member lived within. And they are not icky or gross. I promise. And when you can find the zen within, you will actually want to keep that person near you just a little longer.

And most of the time, they are not going to get “icky or gross” in the short time span you are going to spend with them. Is decomposition real? Of course! Bodies absolutely begin to change after they die, but not in a “Hollywood” special effects kind of way. When you die your body will warm at first, and then start to cool. You will grow sallow and pale. After a couple days, your stomach will swell with gas and it will begin to turn a translucent greenish purple as your organs slowly deteriorate and release the natural flora and fauna within. But it is important to know that it is normal and it is not going to harm those around you as they say their final goodbye.

So let’s reiterate.

Alive body? Eww mouth-breathing germ bag.

Dead body? Peaceful. Calm. And not a germ bag

Are there exceptions? Of course! Every ‘body’ is different. And sometimes there are conditions outside of our control like a car accident or murder-sorry to bring it up but it happens-that prevent us from having the ideal corpse. But, it is still important that we have these discussions and dispel the myth that the dead body is dangerous. When we live in constant terror we cheat ourselves out of precious opportunities for closure and healthy grieving. And when the unexpected strikes, having the confidence and knowledge about the basics means that even a little bit can go a long way. So, next time you see a dead body? Feel free to confidently hold its hand and safely sit next to it. And the next time you want to open a bathroom door? Well, maybe proceed with caution.

DeathAndTheCity

I'm a licensed funeral director living in Los Angeles. This is a place to put my thoughts so I'm not always blowing up my friends' Facebook feed or Twitter with my asinine musings on life and death, and that cliché idea of, everything in between.