By Melissa Johnson Williams

From a new study that looks at 30 years of formaldehyde studies.

“We now have much greater knowledge of the distribution of endogenous and inhaled formaldehyde at the molecular level. Two such findings are of great importance: (1) every living cell contains formaldehyde and measurable formaldehyde N2-hydroxy-methyl-dG adducts; and (2) there is no evidence that inhaled formaldehyde reaches sites distant to the initial site of contact. Indeed, there is strong evidence that inhaled formaldehyde does not reach any distant tissues.”

All Saints Day

From the first centuries after Christ, Christians who died a martyr’s death were considered saints, who live in God’s presence forever. Every year, on the anniversary of the martyrs’ deaths, Christians would visit their tombs and celebrate the Eucharist. This practice grew throughout the centuries to include remembering other outstanding Christians on the days they died. In the ninth century, Pope Gregory IV designated November 1 as the day to remember all the saints.

Dia De Los Muertos

Dia De Los Muerto, the Day of the Dead, is a formal holiday celebrated throughout regions of Mexico where it originated from October 31 – November 2 (All Saints and All Souls Day), each year.  The funeral related industries throughout the world have started dropping the word “celebrate or celebration of life” to replace the word funeral. But nowhere is there more a celebration of life and death then in these communities in Mexico over this formal holiday period.

Historical sources indicate this celebration to be more than 3,000 years old dating back to the Aztecs and possibly first witnessed by the Conquistadors 500 years ago.  There are reports that there were attempts to end the event – that was not successful and has evolved over the years.

Foremost to this celebration is visiting of the graves of deceased family members. In some areas, bones are removed from graves and cleaned, while others spend the day honoring their loved ones with food and activities that the deceased enjoyed in life. Today many outside the Hispanic community embrace this feeling of celebration.  Museum exhibits are observed throughout the US and other countries. A way to help people understand the culture not just of death and dying but of honor and respect for those who have died.  The movie “Coco” that premiered last year, was a good way for children of “all” ages to understand the life and death cycle that so many today say is denied.  Let’s take a moment to remember that we all have the capability to remember, honor and acknowledge our dead. Not just on special designated dates but throughout the year.





This blog post originally appeared on If you are considering a green burial, here are some things you should know.



The Woman in The Iron Coffin

There have been so many stories related to the discovery of a woman in an iron coffin this week.  Here is a link to one of those stories.

Many have been fascinated by the fact that she was in nearly perfect condition; “She looked like she had been dead for a week, but it was 160 years” stated one of the articles. The iron coffin was first  developed before the Civil War. The “air-tight coffin of cast or raised metal” was patented on November 14, 1848 by Almon (also shown as Almond) D. Fisk of New York. The patent that was granted would be different than what would be produced in the coming years. I have only seen one picture of the original patent version. This was probably a prototype and appeared to be at the scene of a disinterment.

The first coffin was built in 1849 at the Fisk & Raymond Co. Foundry in Winfield, Long Island. Through several years of challenges, Fisk was finally able to go in to full production by 1850, with coffins of every size from infant to adult. Ranging in price from $7.00 to $40.00 depending on the size and finish. There were 3 designs; Mummieform Model 1, Mummieform Model 2 and Model 3 that was an imitiation Rosewood finish and less like the other two models. The first 2 coffins were two pieces with a groove were a sealing compound was placed to make them air-tight. They were then screwed together with bolts. They had a window for viewing and a place for a name plate. They were made to fit the form of the body hence the name “mummieform”.

The patent for the coffin expired in 1862 but was not renewed because of illness and subsequent death for Mr. Fisk. The lapsed patent allowed others to produce similar products for a short period of time.  However, Fisk’s wife was able to petition Congress to grant a seven year extension to protect his work. From the 1870’s onward until about the mid-1880’s there are publications showing designs created and sold by others. From the mid-1880’s forward though there are no further publications related to this type of coffin.

See the source image

But what was the most astounding thing about the Fisk Coffin would be when they were discovered after being buried.  Most frequently they were found when there was a disinterment or when a cemetery was moved.  In situations where the outer surface of the coffin was not breached, the remains inside were in near perfect condition, including preservation of the body and clothing.  Where breaches did occur it depended upon how long the coffin remained open and exposed to the elements, that determined the condition of the remains.

By all accounts of the days when these coffins were in use, they were considered a luxury item because of their cost. Something possibly on the order of the casket that we saw Michael Jackson and Aretha Franklin laid to rest in, of that time period. With the most recent discovery in New York City we once again are shown the durability of this invention.  I have no doubt that these will continue to be found in future years.

What It’s Like To Work As A Funeral Director

A few months ago, I was invited to be among the bloggers at sixtyandme. The site, begun by the extraordinary Margaret Manning, has grown by leaps and bounds, now reaching 500,000 readers. The bloggers on the site share their professional expertise gleaned from long careers in their respective fields. I will be blogging on all things funereal, broaching subjects factually and honestly. One of my missions is to combat misinformation about the funeral industry by unlicensed individuals (who have no idea what it’s really like to work in the industry), and those with limited experience.  My first post was a natural, given my many years in funeral service.

What It’s Like To Work As A Funeral Director


This hearse represents a bygone era. One that many people miss. Today “dissing” tradition is the thing to do. It’s old, it’s NOT cool, it’s traditional.

Modern is good if that’s what you want. I myself prefer a traditional, old fashioned home style. It feels warm and comfortable. It reminds me of my parents and grandparents home. Modern to me with chrome and glass feels cold lacking feeling and character. But we all get to choose our preferences. Don’t bash families that want a “funeral” and not a celebration. Tradition is something to be honored and cherished. Each generation can create their own without throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Science behind face transplants

This is a fascinating article about the science behind the complicated face transplant procedure. This type of transplant doesn’t technically fall in “the saving a life category” like organ donation. But sometimes saving a life is in the mind and heart of those needing a transplant.


There is really nothing that can be added to all the accolades that have shared about this amazing woman. She was so much more than just a singer. But that was what she did better than just about anyone. So it wasn’t a complete surprise to see this quote from her, “I will always be singing somewhere.” Those are some lucky angels today.

Rest in sweet peace Aretha.