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The Embalming Process

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The first Day I saw a Dead Body – Intro to my… not so normal life.

The first time I was introduced to death, I was six. I remember it second by second, every detail, even the smell in the air. Though, it wasn’t a nice smell let me tell you… mix formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol…I know there’s more, but, just imagine your nose kind of burning and the taste in your mouth going from nothing, to foul.

I figured it was the body itself, but it’s just the overpowering chemicals that my father used to embalm. I know the process now like the back of my hand, it’s step by step.  Disinfectant solution…then they massage the limbs, gross right? A dead body getting a massage….Then the blood is removed through the veins and then they replace it with formaldehyde-based chemicals through the arteries… It’s crazy what they do. Your eyes stay open, when you die for the most part so dad would use glue or plastic caps to keep the eyes closed, you know, in place.

Mouths are kept in place with wires, he used to sew but it’s too time consuming. I’d get further into detail but it’s really not interesting. The first-time I witnessed it, I fainted. Mainly because of the smell, but also because of the shock. Seeing a dead body for the first time, isn’t something a six year old boy should see, ever. It didn’t help that my father did his embalming’s out of the house, in our basement. We’re kind of a known funeral home. Our house was built in the 1800’s and now and possibly forever, it will always be a funeral home.

It was a Sunday morning, I had just finished sweeping the floor. My dad would give me 50 cents anytime I did it, but the only way I would sweep, was if there were no previous bodies hanging out down there…which was usually on Sundays. People didn’t seem to die on Sundays, for whatever reason…except for this particular one. I could hear voices upstairs, not whispering but not clear enough to make out the words.

I swept the dirt into the pan, disposing of it in a nearby garbage bin. Wiping my hands, straightening anything that may look out of place before tip-toeing closer. The voices emerged into the basement and I ducked underneath Dad’s embalming table…I know, terrible hiding spot.

‘’It’s odd, don’t you think?’’ One spoke.

‘’I know, on a Sunday too. It’s too bad.’’ Another spoke.


‘’Well, we may as well get a start on her.’’
My father’s deep voice sounded a lot louder than it was, he was a large guy, very tall, broad chest. I was tiny, nothing like him. Though, my brother looked more like my father than I did. I covered my mouth with my hand, fearing I’d get in trouble. Though, I wasn’t too successful at hiding. ‘’Sasuke, come out from under there.’’

He must not have forgotten I’d been sweeping that morning. I didn’t say no, I didn’t even speak, I just crawled out on all fours and stood up only to come face-to-face with cessation, the afterlife, darkness, deceased…DEATH.

Death itself, I didn’t know much about it when I was six. I had a general idea, my grandmother died and my grandfather after that. My mom was greeted by death when I was born, but I never witnessed it quite like this, completely face-to-face. This woman wasn’t old, she was middle aged. Tired lines prominent, crow’s feet evident, even though her face was not smiling. The opposite. I swallowed hard, unable to look away from the carnage that was on the table.

The woman’s face had blood splattered from her chin to her nose. I couldn’t tell where it came from given the wounds that peppered her chest, head and arm. I didn’t know what happened at the time so I couldn’t figure out how to react.

Shock is an unusual thing. Adrenaline pumping, you can’t quite think at all or speak, but in that moment I couldn’t even breathe. I couldn’t grasp why my father wanted me to see such a thing, a person in this state, but maybe it was because he wanted to prepare me for what our home was, I was six. I had reached the proper age to understand what was going on.

‘’Car accident,’’ He spoke softly, kneeling down beside me so he was at my height, seeing what I saw, my same line of vision. ‘’I know this is difficult for you to see, but, it is better you become used to these sorts of things.’’ My father spoke softly, I’d never heard him speak so serenely, but it made sense. I was in shock, he was recycled. These things, dead bodies, traumatic injuries…he’d seen it all. All I could do was nod, observing the barren, comatose figure. The shock was replaced with a brief sadness, then acceptance. She was already dead, long before she arrived. I turned to my father, he nodded. I didn’t even have to speak for him to know I wanted to leave but once I reached the top of the stairs, I listened.

‘’Car accident? Really,’’ One said.

‘’No,’’ My father shook his head. ‘’Robbery,’’

I might have been six, inexperience and afraid, but the fact that someone had shot an innocent person, really, really bothered me.

The Day a Dead Body Came Back to Life– Part one to my not so normal life…



I’d been embalming bodies with my father from the age of fourteen. I was eighteen now, my brother was in school but he came home most evenings and weekends. Dad had asked him to take over, see, my father wasn’t well, not like he used to be. Battling cancer for the last year really took a toll on your body. I feared seeing him on top of the table where thousands of others were laid out. I remember him being taller, thicker…but lately, he resembled an old man. It made me feel odd, but death was inescapable no matter who you were or how much you tried to avoid it, it would catch up one way or another.

Bodies, on a normal day, are pronounced dead long before they arrive and end up on our table. Unlike today. There was a thunder storm, it’d been raging for two days. Not that I minded, I preferred the rain. Something about it was soothing. The body they brought in appeared smaller in the body bag – yes, we used body bags. Usually, dad would be the one embalming but the past week he’d been really sick, so I advised him to rest. I regretted that decision after what happened that evening.

I left the body in the bag for the majority of the day, distracted with other house-held chores. Our house was located out of town, maybe a thirty minute drive without traffic. It was a large, old house but between myself, my brother and father, we managed to keep it in good condition, dad even had a maid come in every couple of days to clean it properly. I often wondered if maybe he missed having female company, but I never asked. The rain was strong, beating down on the roof. In the basement I heard it more clearly, given all the windows. I prepped myself, I even had a lab coat and gloves… unzipping the bag only to reveal the body beneath.

I didn’t expect to see what I saw.

Crystalline skin, adolescent skin… The further I unzipped the bag, the more stigma I felt. Curious what had happened to such a youthful individual. Before I reached her face, I grabbed the tag attached. The girl had fallen and hit her head, pronounced dead at the scene…but she looked healthy, unzipping the remainder, I paused.

‘’Too bad…’’

‘’Jesus Itachi, would you stop doing that?’’ I spat, his presence catching me off guard as I removed the body bag. ‘’-I thought you weren’t home until the weekend?’’

‘’I came home early, given dad’s condition…’’ Trailing off he approached the table, brushing back pink strands that hung in this girl’s once lively face. I could see the sadness in his eyes, no young person should ever be greeted by death, ever. ‘’This girl looks like she’s sleeping.’’ He leaned closer, listening to see if he could hear any signs of life.

‘’She was pronounced dead where they found her.’’ I explained, showing him the tag. ‘’I have to run to the lab, we’re low on some chemicals.’’ I explained, rubbing my neck. The last thing I wanted to do was leave a fresh, dead body, but, I had to. I couldn’t embalm her without chemicals.

‘’Right, well.’’ Covering her face, Itachi rubbed his own. ‘’I’m going with you, I’ll see if dad needs anything while we’re out.’’

The drive to town was a long one. Itachi and I didn’t speak much, not really. We didn’t need to, we understood the boundaries – he knew I didn’t like to talk, small talk and I knew he didn’t like when I pretended to be interested in whatever it was he was saying so we listened to the radio, though I preferred the rain over music most days. Not that I didn’t like music, the rain was just peaceful.


‘’I hate formaldehyde.’’ Itachi muttered as I lifted the large container into the trunk. Luckily I wore a rain coat, it was a total downpour. ‘’I still can’t get used to the smell.’’

‘’If you plan on taking over, I suggest you do.’’
Closing the trunk, I got into the car and paused.

Three missed calls?

‘’We have to go Itachi, now.’’ I started the engine, barely giving Itachi time to buckle himself in before flooring it home. Dad called, not once, or twice, three times. Dad never, ever called. Panic washed over me. The drive was left, right and all over the road. I didn’t care if we went off the road, as long as we managed to make it home to dad – afraid of what happened, I didn’t call him back, we just hurried into the house.

‘’Dad?!’’ I ran into the house, soaking wet. ‘’Dad, is everything alright?’’ Moving through each room, upstairs, downstairs, nothing. Shit. I dipped into the room with the body bag – only, no body. I stopped moving. Where was the body? My heart pounded. A body never went missing, not like that.

‘’Sasuke, come up here!’’
– It was dad, he didn’t sound hurt. Swallowing, for whatever reason I was cautious walking up those wooden stairs, though my stealth was ruined by the loud noises each step made – I don’t know what I expected when I reached the top, but I felt panic. ‘’Is everything alright?-‘’ I stopped, dead in my tracks.

Standing up right, was the pink-haired girl that had been dead not thirty minutes prior.

The Day a Dead Body came back to life – Part two…

Speechless, I gawked.

How was she alive, Itachi was seated on dad’s chair, while dad stood with his arms crossed, not looking impressed with the situation. ‘’Someone want to explain what this girl is doing in my house?’’

I was at a loss for words, thank god Itachi witnessed it to or I’d look completely insane.

‘’Well Dad,’’ Itachi started. ‘’That girl was dead and now, for some miraculous reason, she’s not.’’

‘’don’t be smart.’’
My father shook his head, turning to look at the girl. The much panicked, very bewildered girl. I didn’t blame her. If I woke up on someone’s embalming table I’d be in that state too. ‘’Do you know where you are?’’ He asked, using that same placid tone he used with me when I was a boy.

The girl shook her head, eyes wide.

My Father sighed. ‘’My name is Fugaku, these are my sons, Itachi and Sasuke.’’ He paused, taking his time to explain it to her, so she wouldn’t get spooked and run. ‘’I know you’re probably very confused right now…I’m a little puzzled myself.’’ Glancing between Itachi and myself, my father grabbed the telephone, dialing the police. ‘’Sasuke, why don’t you make her comfortable while we wait for the cops.’’

I approached her cautiously, friendly. Though, I wouldn’t label myself as friendly to begin with. I’m anti-social, I have a few friends, but living thirty minutes away had its cons over pros. ‘’Er, I’m Sasuke.’’ I waved slightly, awkwardly. ‘’Do you remember anything?’’ I asked, wondering if maybe she did.

The girl stepped away from me, but then realized we were just there to help. ‘’My name is Sakura,’’ She said softly, voice hoarse, dry, like she hadn’t had water in days.

‘’Are you thirsty?’’ I know I shouldn’t offer her water given a doctor hadn’t addressed her yet, but she looked and sounded thirsty.

‘’No, no thank you um…’’ Sakura glanced down. ‘’I remember you though,’’

How could someone remember you if you never met. I stared her down, was this all a joke maybe? It was hard to say. ‘’You do?’’ I stared more. ‘’How?’’

‘’I heard your voice.’’
She spoke softly. ‘’Before I woke up…’’

Before I could ask her anything else, the cops arrived. Not just the cops, an ambulance too. A bombardment of people filled our living room. The dead girl, or non-dead girl was busy being examined by a doctor and nurse, asking basic questions, testing her vitals. I felt kind of bad just standing there, watching people ambush her, but she came back to life…somehow. It didn’t make a lot of sense, this was the first-time we witnessed someone coming back to life after pronounced dead…now I understood why some grave sites had bells attached to them…just in case.  

The doctor approached my father. I observed, but listened.

‘’As rare as it is, sometimes people miraculously come back to life. We don’t know why, or how.’’ He explained, looking alabaster, like he’d seen a ghost himself. Science couldn’t explain why she came back to life, but she did. ‘’She’s in healthy condition…like death never even occurred.’’

Sakura was left sitting on her own, the nurse detached her from any medical supply, and they gave her a blanket to wrap around her shoulders. I wish I had of thought of a blanket, but I was too distracted that she came back from the dead to even think of it. I approached her cautiously, like before. ‘’How are you feeling?’’

Stupid question.

Sakura’s was pale, I’d never seen someone look that white in my life, her skin appearing delicate, afraid to even go near her. ‘’I’m just confused.’’ She admitted. ‘’I was helping my dad paint and I fell, but I don’t remember much after…just hearing your voice.’’

‘’what was I saying?’’

‘’something about more chemicals? I’m not sure. It was muffled…like I was under water.’’ Sakura ran a hand through her hair. It looked so soft. I was still confused. How was she alive? The police approached her before I was able to ask more questions.

‘’Sakura Haruno, your parents have heard of the news…we’ll escort you there.’’ One of the police officer’s smiled, while the other was just mean looking. I stood up, what was I to say, nice to meet you? Rubbing the back of my neck I watched them leave the house, Sakura looking lost as she got into the back seat, umbrella shielding her from the wet.

‘’Next time something like this happens, you don’t leave,’’ My father warned. Did he not know we weren’t there when she woke up? I bit my tongue, but Itachi defended us both.

‘’Dad, with all due respect, we didn’t know.’’ He shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets. ‘’You should go back to bed, you need rest.’’

Fukagu being a stubborn man, didn’t object to Itachi’s suggestion leaving me and my brother to question all of what happened and why that girl came back from the dead.