|I recently lost my father, and we chose not to have his body embalmed because it was his request (and we agreed wholeheartedly) that there no be no viewing. I have since heard that an unembalmed body will more or less explode in the casket after awhile. Is this true? Thank you for your help.|
|When I encounter an item like this, my first question is always, who in the world told you this? I am fascinated with how this kind of information moves about.
Embalming chemicals interact with the proteins in the body to stop decomposition. The body still decomposes over time, but more slowly and with a different chemical reaction. The most important thing to remember is that decomposition IS A CHEMICAL REACTION. It is NOT a physical reaction. Ice melting is a physical change in the form of the H2O.
When tissue decomposes the by-products of the changes produced by the chemical changes creates gas. The pressure that builds up can find exit points, usually through tissue that is already pretty far gone. It's why you can sometimes here sounds from a decaying animal if you come upon them in a natural setting; even more likely if the body is in intense heat.
All of this explanation was designed to build to the conclusion that while part of the decomposition of any mammal involves breakdowns in sugars (sacrolysis) and other chemicals which cause byproducts like gas (remember all of those hydrogen molecules being released), this process is fairly gradual. A body in the relatively cool environment of a grave is undergoing this reaction rather slowly, hence the possiblity of the body "exploding" is virtually ZERO.
Most religions refer to the grave as a place of peace, a place of rest. We humans try and make everything complicated even when it isn't. We can decompose over a period of years in a grave, unembalmed, or over more years if we're embalmed, or in a matter of hours if we're cremated. But we will return to the basic elements over time.
I'm glad you contacted me and I hope I put your mind at ease. It sounds like the family was comfortable honoring your dad's request, now don't let some busybody destroy the peace and comfort that came with that decision.
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