Care of a dead body


Angie McLachlan with Ichabod in training

Angie McLachlan with Ichabod in training

The Final Fling team trained in care of a dead body as part of a Green Fuse funeral director course: Care of the Body with expert Angie McLachlan.

Angie, like the team from Green Fuse is very sympathetic, thoughtful, respectful and skilled in every aspect of care for a body after death. Here, Angie tells us a bit about her unusual line of business and how her invention, Ichabod, helps bring Care of the Body to life.

“Since the 1930s, death has been moving further and further away from home and community towards hospitals, nursing homes and funeral directors. Very few folk these days feel able to take on care of a dead body – even if they’d like to.

“Our health care practice has changed radically since the ’30s. People are able to live longer with conditions that 70 years ago would have shortened their life dramatically. Medical processes, long term drug treatment and the time lapse between death and the funeral taking place all mean care of a dead body can sometimes be complicated.

“Care of a dead body isn’t spoken about much or widely understood. Death professionals have kindly – but maybe not helpfully – shielded most of the population from death. I personally experienced this situation after my mother died and it inspired me to work towards helping others achieve what I could not – to sit with my mother’s body.

“Just as we lost skills in our communities for caring for our dead over a relatively short period of time, happily now, the home-funeral movement is blossoming in pockets of the UK and once again, people are learning to ‘do death’ themselves.

“There are some wonderful home-funeral resources online and some inspirational pioneers. In fact, the whole concept of home funerals knits in beautifully with another holistic pre-death-care movement, that of the ‘Soul Midwife’ or ‘Death Doula’ – an End of Life Companion. Just as a midwife helps with our arrival, these helpers support our departure.”

“Of course, it’s impossible – for ethical and social reasons to ‘practice’ caring skills on a cadaver or real dead body, so I built Ichabod Smith, an ethically safe ‘body’. Life-size, he’s personable enough to enhance a training session and to facilitate conversations about a subject that might usually be fraught with difficulties. A ‘death dummy’, Ichabod is constructed and weighted to help learners practice handling skills and techniques. Ichabod has been called a ‘powerful tool’ and I am proud that after 23 years in and around the conventional end of funeral provision, I can use him to encourage people to take death into their own hands.”

See Ichabod and Ichabel ‘in the flesh’ in these pictures on Red Plait’s website:

If you’re interested in learning how to care for a body after death – washing, shaving and dressing – as well as more about some of the slightly more complex aspects of body-care, find out more about Angie’s course.

A bit about Angie:

Angie qualified as an embalmer in 1994, and was joint winner of the Trustee’s award from the British Institute of Embalmers for the highest marks in the theory papers that year. She has 23 years experience of the funeral industry and a BA (Hons) in Death Loss and Palliative Care from The University of Portsmouth in 2004. In 2010, she achieved an MA with Distinction in Religion: The Rhetoric and Rituals of Death from The University of Winchester. Currently Angie is a Partner of Red Plait Interpretation LLP – a heritage management, planning and interpretation consultancy, specialising in landscapes and the interpretation of cemeteries, death and mortality. Angie is an ordained  Priest in the Liberal Catholic Church International, an artist, a qualified Foot Healthcare Practitioner and an NLP Practitioner.

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