Nicole Pasulka learns how to embalm a body:

It turns out that, when embalming a body, the worst part comes last. Though a body’s veins may be overflowing with formaldehyde, decayor purgecan still occur if the internal organs aren’t drained of fluid. The process for removing that fluid makes everything we’d done up to now seem like a warm bubble bath.

“This,” Carla said, brandishing a two-foot long metal tube attached to a plastic hose, “is a trocar.”

She pushed the pointed end of the trocar slightly above and to the left of his belly button and began prodding.

“This hose is attached to a hydroaspirator. We’re sucking fluids out of his internal organs. Right now I’m draining his kidneyno, wait,” she gave a little push with the trocar, “his spleen. After I get fluid out, I’m going to reverse the pressure and put chemicals inside. Do you want to give it a try?”

I nervously took the wand. Liquid was being sucked into the tube and down the drain, so I started feeling around, trying to figure out where more excess fluid might be lurking. Suddenly I hit boneand also my threshold for mortuary work.

The bottom line:

As we were cleaning up, Carla and I chatted about the nature of the business. “I guess funeral directors are working with dangerous chemicals all day, but for some reason they typically live really long lives.”

She added that she definitely planned to be cremated.

Me too.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to