The art of preserving deceased individuals dates back thousands of years. This practice has taken different forms in various civilizations. Method have involved everything from spices and perfumes to arsenic-laced solutions.
Motivations have varied as much as techniques. Embalming has its roots in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians believed that the body should be attractive enough to lure the soul back to it for resurrection.
Origin of Modern Embalming
Fast forward a few thousand years and embalming took on a more functional purpose. The Civil War brought about a challenge – how to send fallen soldiers back home in a way such that their families could have a proper funeral. Also, railway systems eventually refused to transport deceased soldiers. This situation forced military personnel to bury them in unmarked graves in the field.
At the time, a Dr. Thomas Holmes of New York had been experimenting with preservation methods that began in France. He wanted to reduce the risk to medical students who worked with deceased study subjects. Dr. Holmes came up with a way to use arterial injection to embalm the deceased with a solution he had invented.
In 1861, Dr. Holmes was commissioned by Washington to embalm the first officer killed in the Civil War. This officer happened to be Col. Elmer Ellsworth, a good friend of President Lincoln.
The Rest Is History
Dr. Holmes, along with other physicians and pharmacists, quickly realized that there was a need for their services. Over time, funeral parlor owners followed suit.
You may be surprised to learn that embalming is not always necessary. Many times, it is up to the family whether or not to have it done. In fact, it is recommended that individuals specify their in their will, particularly if they do not wish to be embalmed.
If you’re not sure what your options are when it comes to this part of the planning process, consult with our caring staff at Mountain View Funeral Home. We’re here to answer any questions you might have and help you make the appropriate choices for your loved one. Contact us here.