Christmas Eve, right after church while still wearing my silk dress, I drove to the funeral home and removed the cosmetics, wax and sutures from the facial wound. I scraped out all of the absorbent powder and stuffed the wound with phenol-soaked cotton, then left it overnight.

I saw blood on the pillowcase so I checked the head sutures. They were intact and no leakage was present, so I believe the blood was from her partially wet hairpiece. I disposed of the hairpiece and the family provided a new one. If necessary, part of this hairpiece can be arranged to obscure the facial wound a little bit.

I also re-coated the face with a moisturizing cream that contains formaldehyde, and did the same with the other victim of the car crash (did I mention there were two?) whose face was unharmed.

I left the lip reconstruction as it was, but took out the putty I used along the gums to shape the mouth, and glued the remaining lips closed.

The day after Christmas, I returned to check the dryness of the wound. It was still slightly moist, so I re-packed it with phenol and cotton, and sutured it very tightly.

I came back the next day and it was still slightly wet with chemicals. The bleeding had stopped; I just needed to get the wound completely dry before re-applying the wax and makeup. I undid the sutures, scooped out the cotton, filled the cavity with hardening compound and left it to air dry.

There is one tool that would be very useful here; an electric spatula. This is a very small spatula, about an inch long, that plugs in and gets about as hot as a curling iron, and the only time I’ve used one is to smooth out puffy eyes post-embalming. You coat the eyes with moisturizing cream (the kind that does not contain formaldehyde) and literally iron them with the spatula. It works great. However, my workplace does not have one. I called a few other mortuaries, but they also did not have one.

A curling iron would work just as well, but there is just no way I can take a curling iron to a nice lady’s face. Some things are just plain wrong even if the outcome is right.

There are other things one can do on the day of the funeral: set up the casket and walk around, viewing the face from different angles. Find the worst possible place to stand and view, then put a flower stand or photo stand there, which will cause the family to view from a better angle. Alternately, flowers or a Bible can be placed in the casket at an angle which makes the facial wound less noticeable.

So, this will be it. I will return in a day or so and just work with what I was able to achieve. I know it will at least hold through the funeral, and really, that’s all we try for with any deceased body. It will be a short viewing followed by cremation, and then none of this will matter.