“My job is not like a job to me. It is a way of showing that in life and death respecting and helping one another makes everything worthwhile,” says Siobhán Kiely, a Kildare-based embalmer.
Embalming in Ireland has been practiced for more than 50 years and standards of procedure and professionalism were incorporated and developed, according to the association which represents the profession in this country.
It is the art and science of preserving human remains by treating them to forestall decomposition.
The intention is usually to make the deceased suitable for public or private viewing as part of the funeral ceremony, or, in another sphere keep them preserved for medical purposes in an anatomical laboratory
Siobhán is an embalmer with over 15 years experience and she is a member of the British Institute of Embalmers.
“Embalming is not only a job to me, it is a passion,” says Siobhán.
And, indeed, it’s hard to overstate the importance and the sensitivity of the role.
“The purpose of embalming is sanitation, preservation and presentation.
“As bacteria moves through our body as soon as we die, the process of embalming halts that and this slows down the process of decay,” Siobhán explains.
When we lose someone we love, it is very difficult at times to process, even if the death is expected.
By viewing our deceased loved ones, it helps us to come to terms with that loss.
And with that in mind, Siobhán finds it best to ask for a recent photograph of the deceased from the relatives.
“I have embalmed members of my own family, so I understand how important this is for the grieving process.”
Siobhán is the mortuary manager at Wellbrook funeral services, based in Derrymullen, Allenwood.
Wellbrook is located near the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Allenwood Cross.
Her 15-year career as an embalmer followed a 15 years of studying and the successful completion of certified training with BIE for two years.
“I have worked for a number of undertakers over the years as a freelance embalmer, thus allowing me the privilege of providing families comfort in the knowledge that their loved one has been looked after with the utmost respect and dignity.
“The idea of me training and working in this industry commenced when I was a young child and was encouraged by the fact that in every other job I worked in I never felt complete.
“This commitment is in my mind evident in my work and in the gratitude received from families.
“My day commences with me checking work reports like date of death and whether reposing and burial or cremation has been requested.
“The process of engaging with families is the funeral director’s area but communication is paramount in providing the family with comfort in knowledge that the best possible care was given to their loved one.”
Although Siobhan does not always deal with clients directly, she receives requests which “can be rewarding for both myself and most importantly family.”
Hair, makeup, nails and dressing are taken into great consideration and the family providing the photograph enables her to “present the best possible memory I can.”
The day ends with readying the mortuary for the next day, happy in the knowledge that she has completed her work to the best of her ability.
And, adds Siobhán, there is added satisfaction in allowing dignity to prevail on the deceased’s last journey.