Closing eyelids of a corpse

When a family member of mine died, I was alone with his body for what couldn’t have been 10 minutes after he expired.

In Hollywood, the closing of the eyelids of a corpse is always done with a oh-so-soft gentle downward sweep lasting no more time than it takes for the hand to pass in front of the eyes.

In my case (which was not easy even to attempt, as you can well imagine) it was not physically easy and took a fairish amount of effort.

What’s going on there clinically?

NB: The fact that he was family should absolutely not have any bearing on the tenor of the responses from the T Millions. This happened many many years ago and I’ve wondered about it off-and-on since.

I can’t answer the specific question, but here is how morticians keep the eyes closed:

My father died with his eyes open, and I was unable to close them. It felt like he was fighting to keep them open.

In my experience they don’t close all the way. That’s why people used to put a coin on them to close them.

When one dies the body loses tonus. The “neutral” position for the eyelids is slightly open. We use muscles to open them all the way and to close them.
That’s why coins were used to keep the eyes closed. The coins added enough weight to keep them closed.

When my father died, I closed his eyes quite easily.

The family was all together in his hospital room, he was on several monitors, and we had no question about when death occurred, so it was barely seconds later that I closed his eyes. Could that short interval be why my experience was so different from the posters above?

Of course the reason it is performed so easily in the movies is that the actor is not actually dead, and probably doesn’t want anyone actually touching his/her eyes to try to close them - so he/she closes eyes as the other actor’s hand passes over them.

when the body dies, it goes into a rigor state (the muscle is constantly contracted), this lasts i think for a good amount of hours. So right after death it wouldnt be too hard to close the eye lids, but the tetanus comes into effect shortly after.

from what i can remember, the ATP is still bound to the myosin head which keeps it in flexed position. I dont remember the details, but this goes on until all of the ATP In the body is used up.

Not quite. It’s been a while since I’ve researched this, but I’m going to shoot from the hip anyway. Feel free to correct me:

The muscles aren’t contracted, necessarily. It’s fixed wherever the final position was. It takes ATP not only to contract a muscle, but also to relax it. It’s the ATP that allows the myosin head to unbind from the actin binding site so that the fiber can either expand or contract.

It’s calcium that lets the myosin bind in the first place. Upon death, the pumps that work against calcium diffusion stop working. So the calcium flows into the sarcomeres, which allows all the myosin to bind to the actin. This bond is strong enough from the overload of calcium that it can’t be broken until the muscle dies and decays a little bit. Either that or someone forcing the muscle to move, essentially tearing it.

I think it’s the other way around. You need the ATP to detach the actin from the myosin, but dead bodies don’t have much of a metabolism.