Death and removal of the body

A friend’s mother died last weekend. When the guy from the mortuary came to collect the body from the hospice, the attendant had her leave the room while the guy did his thing. Apparently they wrap the body up quite tightly to get it on the stretcher. FWIW, the mother was 91 years old and suffering from COPD and would not have been particularly large, just a frail old woman.

Said friend had already seen all of the last hours of her mother’s life, and is not exactly squeamish. She was wondering why they wouldn’t want her in the room while the body was prepped for removal. Maybe it’s just a standard procedure, but she was curious and I told her I’d see if I could find out.

Insider information or thoughts?


A WAG, but I bet the attendants have seen quite some emotional displays. Yes, the body is wrapped tightly and the face is covered.

It would probably upset me to see my loved one “packaged for removal.”

Just standard procedure–a question of decorum. After all, their loved one just crossed over only minutes before, and that physical body still signifies everything about the former living entity.

As long as it was natural death, and no coroner is needed to sign the death certificate, the mortician’s only concern is just transporting the body like any other good that has to be transported. I worked at a mortuary once, and I often helped unload the bodies when they were particularly heavy. Once out of the family’s view, it’s just a package.

When my MIL passed in my home, we were present when they transferred her body. We helped them, in fact, as she was a heavy woman. They were nothing but respectful, did not wrap her or cover her face ( that would have been hard!). In fact we did the transfer just as we always did when she was alive, with a sheet like in an emergency room.

Before they left they placed a single, long stem, red rose on the bed, after pulling the covers back up. As I said, very respectful.

They were also very accommodating of our wishes, in every way. We did not want her moved for 8 hrs, which would mean they could not collect her until after 10pm. We offered to keep her with us, till the next morning, if it was an issue, but they assured us they’d rather have her over night and would come at whatever time suited us, no matter.

It was not a coroner though, it was a funeral home, if that makes a difference.

When my MIL died another son in law picked her up and toted her to his van and drove her to the mortuary.

Remote high desert community, different states, different persons, have different attitudes and do things differently.

When my grandmother died at home after recieving hospice care for a week or so, the funeral home’s team asked us to do the same thing. I politely but firmly said no, I’ll stay here. I think the suggestion that family leave is pretty standard, but how its said my differ. I don’t think I’d use the services of the home if they wouldn’t respect my wishes to be present.

I failed to be with my father when he died (I’d actually left briefly to arrange for hospice care.) When I returned to the hospital, he’d already been moved to the morgue and I was understandably extremely upset that I hadn’t been with him when he passed. The hospital staff were very emphatic that I not see him until he was “ready” but I was equally emphatic that I had to see him NOW and I really didn’t care if he looked…I don’t know, gruesome or something.

I created enough of a scene that they relented - he looked gruesome I suppose but it was OK, I just needed to see him for some visceral or emotional reason and it was fine. I didn’t want or need to be shielded from the reality of his death, but I got the distinct impression that the hospital staff were being overly squeamish and sensitive so I surmised that many people didn’t deal with it very well so they made it a policy that family members not see the recently-deceased, if possible.

When my sister died at home in Las Vegas, natural causes, she was put in a zip bag-i think they asked us to leave, i can’t recall, but my guess would be that seeing the lifelessness of the body as it is moved would be disturbing, whether “floppy” the way the newly dead are, or the stirange stiffness of rigor. Both scream death in their own way.

Just by the way, when you call a local funeral home in the middle of the night, a white van from a “removal service” comes. Every town has one. A couple of nice well-dressed people run the service for all the local funeral homes. They hand out the card from the home you called and all the rest.

Also by the way, if you are lost in a strange town, call a funeral home. A nice person who knows all the streets is always on call.

If you are Jewish and can find an Orthodox community, the synagogue or community (whether associated with a synagogue or not) can notify a group of people whose entire service is collecting and preparing bodies for funeral, called Chevre Kadishe–the Group Of Sanctification, more or less, but no one uses the English word.

My FIL died in a hospital, and they came (no beards, rabbis, mumbo-jumbo) wrapped and transported the body. Perhaps they muttered a prayer, but nothing I heard.

Most big city hospitals have a list of these guys. And, as I said, every Orthodox Jewish community has one.

So, this will be a bit oogey and clinical. But it’s a good answer.

Depending on how long the body has been dead, various and sundry fluids start leaking. The funeral home or M.E. folks may wish to wrap the body very tightly in an effort to contain said bodily fluids.

And, we should distinguish very clearly between funeral home and M.E. If the body is required to go for autopsy, it is likely the cause of death must be legally established. This may or not mean that a crime is considered to have taken place.

Bedsheets are not a good way to lift a person from bed to stretcher, they are the material close to a body that is going to be forensically examined and autopsied.

While an EMT, we were called to an adult residential facility for severely incapacitated adults. Physically and/or mentally, these folks were in need of 24/7 care. A female client there had been sexually abused. The state police who accompanied us talked to us before we entered the building, reminding us to “bundle her up so we get all of her bedsheets”. The patient was removed with all of the bedding down to her mattress intact and under around and over her. We coccooned her, basically, to preserve evidence.

Then we placed her onto the gurney and transported her.

If a funeral home is required and no autopsy is involved, then the tight wrapping is very likely related to the bodily fluids mentioned above.

When my father died in hospice, there was a nurse practitioner (I think) who came. She had to remove his catheter (which might be true of anyone in a late stage illness) and that was a fairly private activity; the other thing she did was to inventory his drugs and make the pills unusable by stuffing them into a concoction of coffee grounds and gelatin (or something like that). Fortunately there weren’t many since he hadn’t been sick for very long, because that took a little while. Then the removers came, which I think was that white van that Paul in Qatar referred to.

Anyway, I was content not to see him after he died. My mother died in hospital and when I came in the room afterward it was clear she was no longer “there”, and her skin seemed a kind of greenish-gray color, which was not pleasant.

Also An EMT,
And I will second everything Cartooniverse posted.
We don’t have a professional removal service for the mortuary’s in this rural area but the local funeral homes do work together for after hours transports. We for many many years preformed this service for the funeral homes with our ambulances and still do all the morgue transports to this day.
I always looked at it as protecting family members from the pleasantries of this service. Yes the body releases fluids and more and we are only trying to protect the last images you have of a loved one.
Most people will recall everything about the last sights smells sounds etc. and it would be callous for someone transporting a deceased to not make an attempt to protect family from this unpleasant duty.

I’m stunned by the whole fluids thing. My MIL was left to be, for 8 hrs, and there were no fluids, I helped move her, so I’m sure. There was nothing shocking, in fact about her appearance, or her body.

And I am glad that I wasn’t sent out of the room, (not that I’d have gone anyway), that would have upset me enormously. I would have deeply resented not being witness to her exit from my home because of some officious rule follower with an over abundance of caution, (based on what could/might happen.)

Death is individual, there should not be a protocol that separates people from their loved ones without good reason, if they want to be present. Not everyone is the delicate flower they imagine. Just my opinion.