Most cultures have long and ancient traditions of funeral rites and special treatment for the dead. Some of these traditions include ritualistic attempts to preserve the body as much as possible. Whereas ancient Egyptians would mummify, many modern cultures embalm.
When a person dies, the body quickly becomes pale and unsightly. This doesn't make for a very pleasant experience when family and friends say their goodbyes to their dearly departed loved ones. That's where the embalming process comes in. It delays the decomposition of a corpse and cosmetically restores it to look presentable for the viewing. It also sanitizes the body to prevent spreading infection [source: Aurora Casket Company].
The details of embalming aren't pretty. It involves first washing the body with germicidal soap and massaging out stiffness. Then embalmers drain the blood and gases and inject disinfecting embalming fluid. Preparing the face involves securing the mouth shut with wires and the eyes shut with glue [source: Redwood Funeral Society]. Morticians can also beautify the body with makeup, manicuring and shaving. They also dress the body before the funeral for viewing.
Embalmers are exposed to toxic cleaning chemicals during the process and to diseases from handling the bodies. In addition to needing a rock-solid constitution in dealing with corpses, those charged with this brave task also have to switch gears and tactfully interact with the family of the deceased.
Embalmers, morticians and mortuary workers earn about $41,000 on average, and the pay rises with experience [source: CNNMoney].