As I researched the issues concerning funerals and burials in Michigan, I found an interesting history.
Until the time of the Civil War, burials in America were all “green” funerals. When an individual died, his or her family washed and dressed the body. It was usually laid out upon a table or in a homemade wooden casket in the home parlor which was kept cool.
After receiving visitation from family, friends, and neighbors, there was a simple funeral. The body was often buried upon the individual’s own land if he or she lived in the country. If the individual was a city dweller, it was done in a city cemetery. There were no metal caskets, no vaults and no embalming.
During times of war, those who were killed in battle were buried by their fellow soldiers near where they were killed. The family simply received a notification that their loved one had died in battle.
Then came the Civil War. Many of the soldiers, from the North and the South, were from affluent families. They wanted their sons to come home for burial. The transportation of the bodies was slow and the bodies deteriorated before they could arrive home.
In order to diminish the body’s deterioration, the bodies were embalmed. This preserved the bodies sufficiently to permit them to be shipped home for interment.
The custom of embalming took hold in America when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. His widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, wanted him embalmed to preserve his looks. His body was taken around the country prior to burial. America was impressed with the lifelike appearance of the body after embalming.
In the United States and Canada, embalming has been the standard for over one hundred years. It should be noted that this practice is not common in Europe, England, or the rest of the world.