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What Happens at the Exact Time of Death?

  What is happening in your body at the exact moment of death? I have searched all over the web for a complete answer to that question and have not found it. If you could help I would appreciate it. Also, I have always been very interested in your industry. I
long to be a mortician but don't know where/how to get started. Could you please point me in the right direction? If it helps any, I live in Pennsylvania. Also, in the meantime I would like to work in a funeral parlor. Are there any jobs that I could do in one only having a high school diploma?


I don't know if I can remember all the details concerning the post-mortem changes that take place in the body at the time of death, (it's been a long time since mortuary school) but I'll do my best. Some of the things that occur include:

1. The blood begins to collect in the most dependent parts of the body with the upper surfaces of the body becoming pale in color.
2. They eyes become sunken in the sockets.
3. Rigor mortis (a stiffening of the major muscles) begins to set in.
4. The body cools to the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere. In some cases, the temperature of the body can increase.
5. Various chemical changes begin as part of the decomposition process. If not interrupted by embalming, these chemical changes can bring about odor, gas discharge, discoloration, purge from the stomach or lungs, skin-slip, etc.

I know this is a very basic answer to the first part of your question but I hope it is somewhat helpful. If you need more details I would suggest looking at some medical journals and textbooks at your local library.

It's good to hear that you are interested in pursuing a career in funeral service. First, let's discuss what the educational requirements are in Pennsylvania. To obtain a funeral director license in your state, you must have a minimum of 2 years of college (60 hours of
specific courses) plus mortuary college (1 year), and be able to pass the national board exams. At that point you will begin serving a one-year apprenticeship working under a licensed funeral director. At the end of that year, you will then receive your license.

Contact your State Board of Funeral Directors at (717) 783-3397 for more details and to obtain the name of the school nearest you.

I would also recommend that prior to entering school you secure a job (even if it's part-time) at a local funeral home. Many firms employ unlicensed staff assistants (with no educational requirements) to help out with a variety of tasks, thus giving you some exposure to the profession. I feel it is highly important for you to get a feel for the business before you make a commitment to enter college. -- Kevin Stockham

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