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My father does the embalming. He’s licensed. I’ve watched him enough times, and sometimes I prep the body for him, so I have it down pretty good. Personal protection—including gown, apron, and show covers—is important, and sometimes I have to remind Daddy to put on his goggles. He wears prescription glasses, and in the old days that was considered enough.

Mixing the fluids is science, but for Daddy, it’s art. Mixture depends on the body size and condition. An incision is made near the right collarbone, the carotid artery, and another incision in the jugular vein. The arterial tubes, one towards the heart and one towards the head, are inserted into the incisions. Another hose is for draining the blood. After connecting the hoses to the embalming machine, adjusting dials for pressure, switch the machine on.

Thump-thump, the embalming machine works like a heart.

Massaging the flesh with a soapy sponge helps the flow. Daddy watches the skin color for signs of trouble. If the flesh firms up and turns rosy, then all is good.

Afterward, turn off the thump-thump, remove the hoses, and suture the incisions. The internal organs are then suctioned out, replaced by a strong fluid.

That’s embalming in a nutshell.

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