“For many it is the opportunity to get very close to a prominent person”

Mr. Lenzen, public figures are sometimes – like recently Pope Benedict XVI. or Pelé – laid out after death so that people can say goodbye to them. Why do you do that?

Laying out evolved from storage. The deceased person first had to be preserved until they were buried. During this time she was laid out.

But there are also other cultural considerations: One is the idea of ​​the wake. The deceased is guarded by relatives between death and burial. This used to be for pragmatic reasons, so that their belongings were not stolen. A second thought is respect for the dead, not leaving the dead alone until they are buried. This is also an obligation to the deceased that some people feel.

life and us

The guide for health, well-being and the whole family – every second Thursday.

With the Queen, Pope Benedict XVI. and Pelé, such laying-outs almost had the character of an event.

Exactly, you can’t deny that. Some people want to be part of it, especially when it comes to public figures, and want to have experienced the process. With the Queen, people sometimes queued for days to say goodbye without seeing her. Of course, respect also plays a role.

When public figures die, however, it sometimes creates a kind of collective sense of loss. A figure of identification like the Queen, the Pope or Pelé evoke collective mourning because they were of great importance to society. A chilling curiosity can also play a role: for many, it is the opportunity to get very close to a celebrity – closer than they would probably ever have been able to do in their lifetime.

To person

Fabian Lenzen is an undertaker and chairman of the undertakers’ guild of Berlin and Brandenburg. He has also completed training to become thanato practitioners: they are trained in laying out the dead and know how to embalm.

Even at private funerals, some friends or relatives want to see the deceased at the open coffin and say goodbye. Why can this be helpful?

See also  Largest explosion ever observed in the cosmos

In modern times, the psychological aspect of mourning is becoming more and more conscious, so that one can see the deceased again for the mourning process, especially for the close relatives. In this way, one can very practically realize that the person has really died. For example, if someone dies in the hospital and is cremated and the urn is the only thing the relatives see of them afterwards, then some people are missing something in the processing.

Would you recommend looking at the deceased again?

I would recommend it to close relatives. In any case, this is a question that we always ask in the bereavement or counseling session: “Would you like to see the deceased again?” It can be helpful for the awareness process. This has to do with deference to the deceased, but also with one’s own mourning process.

For example, if family members have found the deceased in a situation that is not particularly dignified, it can be important to say goodbye to the person again and to remember a different last image. Or if people die suddenly – for example in an accident – this can make sense for the realization process. Then the so-called reconstructive cosmetics are used: Here one tries to take care of the deceased in such a way that they can be looked at.

In the city, one tends to keep a certain distance from the body of the deceased

Fabian Lenzen, undertaker

How often do farewells take place at the open coffin?

My impression is that this has been increasing again lately, especially in the urban context. In rural areas it is still not that unusual to do this – or has never become so. In the city, on the other hand, one tends to keep a certain distance from the body of the deceased. The deceased should be picked up as soon as possible if they died at home. Because some also associate certain worries or feelings of disgust with it. But I have the impression that something has changed in the last ten to 15 years.

See also  The excitement about stroke risk

Why is that?

I think that goes hand in hand with a certain change in palliative care. Many patients no longer necessarily die in the anonymity of a hospital. Palliative care at home did not previously exist and is now being used more and more. In some cases, the deceased are washed and dressed at home by relatives – possibly with the support of the palliative care staff – and remain in the “mourning house” for a few hours or days. How long this is possible varies from state to state.

So is the old practice becoming more common today?

In a way. In the past, it was very common for the deceased to remain on their deathbed in their own home or to be placed on a so-called death board before being taken to the cemetery. In later times they were carried by the village community or by helpers and today usually by undertakers to the cemetery in a chapel or another room for laying out, which today is mostly refrigerated. In Bavaria you can still find this in many cemeteries: there are still a kind of morgues that even have a public character. The deceased were laid out in front of a window and the village community could say goodbye.

Can’t it also be disturbing or scary for some people to see someone who has passed away? For children, for example?

I find it enormously important that the deceased is laid out with dignity and that there is no “scary effect” but rather a peaceful face and something more forgiving. These ideas can be very different, also for religious reasons.

See also  Parents: Why "No, I don't have a favorite child" is a flat lie

If you take children to say goodbye, it is important that they come along voluntarily and that you prepare them for what awaits them there: that the deceased grandmother will be lying there in a coffin and will probably be cold when you touch her. That many people who are there will probably cry – including their own parents. Otherwise, this could lead to overload.

How do you prepare the deceased before an open-casket funeral?

That depends somewhat on the time frame allotted for the farewell and burial. If it’s just a short farewell of one to two hours, then no preservation is needed, just normal cosmetic-hygienic basic care. The deceased is cleaned, washed, shaved and dressed so that he has a dignified face.

I find it enormously important that the deceased is laid out with dignity and that there is no “scary effect” but rather a peaceful face and something more forgiving.

Fabian Lenzen, undertaker

If the deceased are to be laid out for days at room temperature, as Pope Benedict XVI did recently, then the general conditions are different. 24 to 48 hours after death, autolysis begins at room temperature – this is what we colloquially call the process of decomposition. To avoid this, one can make a temporary preservation and embalm the deceased.

What happens with the preservation?

So-called thanato practitioners are responsible for the conservation – in Germany this is additional training for undertakers. Essentially, the blood of the deceased is exchanged for a liquid containing a preservative. Usually this is formaldehyde. This delays autolysis. In order to have an appealing optical component, other substances can be added to the liquid in addition to the actual preservative, for example dye or a moisturizing substance that makes the skin supple.

See more here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *