Dimond And Sons, Silver Bell Chapel

Your Questions

 

Another question, if you don't mind. I and my family took notice of the fact that on the first occasion of viewing of my mother, her body was extremely cold and rigid. I raised this question to one of my sisters who had lost her husband a few years ago and she stated that the mortuary had frozen my mother's remains because she passed on Easter Sunday and the first viewing did not take place until the following Wednesday evening to allow out-of-town family to get to California. Another sibling stated that too much embalming fluid had been used while another said that the rigidness of her body was due to rigors (I used to be a nurse and if I am not mistaken, rigors usually subside relatively soon after death.) The condition of my mother's remains (rigid/hard) was disturbing...when my father passed, his body was supple and, although cool due to lack of circulation, was not icy cold. In fact, his arms and hands were warm to the touch which was actually comforting rather than distressing. The Director did an exceptional job in preparation of my mother's remains. She appeared very lifelike and only sleeping and much younger in a comforting, natural and pleasing way not in a forced or unnatural way. The exceptions to her preparation was the fact of her body being the extremely cold, rigid condition of her body and in dressing her they did cut the dress (even though it was actually too large for her as she had lost wait in her later years) and when they dressed her, the area near the jugular/carotid where the embalming fluid was introduced - though covered with a gauze pad - was visible. The question, simply put - though perhaps difficult to answer - could the coldness and rigidity of my mother's body be in fact attributed to her remains being (simply put) frozen solid, rigors, over embalming or a combination of those factors? Thank you again for your time.
First, I don't mind your questions. They are well thought out and give me enough information that I can actually work out some logical answers.

The temperature of human remains will actually be room temperature. Your question, simply answered is very likely "all of the above". But, let's separate the parts ro try and come up with the best answer: Your sister may have misstated the effect of refrigeration. Bacterial stabilization is achieved at 42 degrees F.(you know, there's no way to do one of those little degree zero things on a computer keyboard) Funeral homes try NOT to freeze remains because once the tissue is frozen it can cause many problems if you later want to embalm the body. Rigor mortis, if it does set in does so quite some hours after death, AND goes away, on its own after a few hours. So even if rigor did "set in" it wouldn't have a long term effect. Actually, one of the first things the embalmer does is "break" the rigor by gently moving the limbs to eliminate any negative effects of rigor mortis on the embalming process. Now, over-embalming, as you refer to it, could cause that rigidity in the tissue. Embalming fluids contain humectants and other chemicals to reduce the firming action of formaldehyde. If an embalmer uses too great a quantity of embalming fluid, without the correct dilution, an unwanted firmness could result.

Finally, the temperature thing seems to be of great concern. When we are used to feeling someone "warm" it may seem like the lack of that warmth exagerates the feeling of "cold". I'm not playing with words; I've heard people comment on it many times. We keep the chapels about 70 degrees F and that is much colder than body temperature and would seem very cold to the touch. Hope this helps.


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