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Funerals/Emblaming Complication or just an unexplained freaky mystery.


My brother recently passed away unexpectedly at 50 years old.  An autopsy was performed and he was embalmed.  We had an open casket viewing Thursday night in which he looked "ok"...we returned Friday morning and his face had swollen a bit, and his left eye was so swollen, the best way I could describe it is that it had the appearance of an eye swollen shut from an allergic reaction, a bug bite or a good punch.  The change in appearance overnight we felt would be way to disturbing to anyone who had seen him the previous night, so we had to close his casket.  The funeral director could not explain why or how this could happen and that there is no medical or scientific reason/explanation for this, and he had never seen that happen before.  I would be very appreciative if you could shed some light on why that may have happened to him.  No mother should have to bury her son, I can never take that pain away from my mother or even begin to understand her loss. To watch her see his swollen face like that was just the topper to the heartbreak.  To provide her some explanation to remove yet another question of many "why him" during this difficult time would be something I would love to be able to give her.  Any help would be so appreciated.  Thank you so much.


First, my condolences to you and your family. Any death is a challenge to face, but an unexpected death and someone so young is especially difficult to deal with.

The explanation I can think of, is that your brother may have had a bacteria present in his body either prior to his death or something that entered his body shortly after death, that the disinfectant in the embalming chemical could not stop it from growing. The swelling you saw on his eye was most likely from the bacteria growing and giving off gas that caused the swelling.

Despite the embalmers best efforts, sometimes there are bacterium present that are resistant to the disinfectant.

I hope this helps,

Erin Phelps


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Erin Phelps


I can answer any questions about funerals,embalming, cremation, green burial, home funerals, burial on your own land, scattering of cremated remains and any other death related questions you may have.


I have worked in the death care industry since 1977, owning my own funeral home since 1990. I worked as an EMT at a funeral home based ambulance service for 6 years gain much experience there. When I opened my funeral home, my goal was to provide honest, straightforward, significant and affordable services to the families who called upon me for my services. Since Sept. 2008, I have served as a member of the Oregon State Mortuary & Cemetery Board, which regulates the operation of mortuarys and cemeteries in Oregon. I have been a regular attendee and speaker at various funeral related seminars over the years and am a frequent contributor to "Mortuary Management" magazine. I was one of the first funeral directors in Oregon to offer "Green" or "Natural" burial services and to offer assistance to families who wish to take care of their own family members at home. I also have vast experience in the repatriation of a deceased to their country of origin.

Oregon Funeral Directors Association, International Cemetery, Cremation & Funeral Association, Cremation Association of America, Funeral Ethics Association Natural End Funeral Services - Charter Member.

Mortuary Management Funeral Monitor Funeral Service Insider

Attended the University of Oregon Associates of Science Degree - Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, Oregon

Awards and Honors
Top 10 Eye Enucleators in Oregon. Nationally Board Certified Funeral Director/Embalmer Honored in "Funeral Monitor", Aug. 2007 for my business practices.

Past/Present Clients
Since 1990, I have served over 10,000 families, requesting the gamute of services ranging from the simplest to the most elaborate. Servicing christian, jewish, muslim, buddhist, hindu and humanists, along with families from every continent in the world.

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