The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Suit ya?

Friday, 19 April 2013

 

There are six Rosedale funeral homes. Headquartered in Diss, they straddle the Norfolk-Suffolk border. This is a gentle, conservative part of the world. If you’ve not been for thirty years or so, you’ll find it exactly as it was.

Rosedale is headed up by Anne-Beckett-Allen. She was brought up in the business and spent some years working for a group. Her husband, Simon, is a funeral outsider with a genius for creating beautiful spaces. He has converted and furnished all the funeral homes in a style you might term contemporary antique. They exude understated class.

We were delighted to be invited to accredit the funeral homes, and spent two very enjoyable days doing so. They all pass with flying colours; we recommend them without reservation. If John Lewis did funerals, they’d probably do them like this. You get the same level of service from incredibly nice, natural, bright people who love what they do. There’s none of the heavy-handed customer-service role-play you get in so many other British businesses.

So, all in all, a class act all round. Brilliant. We like and admire them hugely.

What do they do that’s different? That’s a question that misses the point. The way to phrase it is: What do they do particularly well?

One thing they do particularly well is look after people who have died with great care and tenderness. And this has led them to doing away with the mouth suture. Instead, they support the jaw in a gentler way using the device above and left. Clients are entirely happy about it and, as you can see in the photo below, when it’s time to fit mine it’ll hardly show at all.

Jaw1

Rosedale’s staff say it achieves a very natural expression. That’s got to be a good thing, because the suture is difficult to get right, often producing a parrot mouth (you should have seen my Mum).

The dead don’t mind the suture, of course. But, as Tom Lynch says, the dead do matter — and so do their families. It is difficult to defend any mortuary practice which might appal the living. The mouth suture takes some explaining and, as a funeral outsider myself, I still find it shocking.  

If you don’t know what the mouth suture involves, but would like to find out, think twice if you are squeamish. There’s a verbal description here and a series of videos here.

 

 

Jaw14

 

 

14 comments on “Suit ya?

  1. Nicholas Potts

    Thursday 9th May 2013 at 5:32 pm

    The problem with many operatives’ mouth suture is that they are taught to pass the needle through the frenulum between the gum and lip, both top and bottom, pull tight, and knot. Here’s a method that always gives a natural closure:
    The needle is passed upwards, usually in the line under the chin, behind the lower gum, then the needle is re-threaded onto the long end hanging from the entry hole and passed upwards again, this time in front of the lower jaw between the gum and the lower lip. Pull tight to bring the thread close to the jawbone, which will lose the dimple formed by the loop of thread. Pass the needle between the upper gum and lip into one or other of the nostrils, through the cartilagenous nasal septum and downwards into the “floor” of the other nostril between the upper gum and lip. With practice, the chin can be held with the little finger whilst the thread, now in a loop around bone both top and bottom, is tied in a bow to afford adjustment if necessary. A spot of Vaseline in the chin hole stops drying and discoloration.
    Better than the “parrot beak” or a gaping mouth, and it will hold dentures in place, especially where the lower gum has receded.
    I have seen the plastic frames used and they’re not bad, but hardly invisible either. Anything is better, in my opinion, than the Needle Injector, which fires a barbed peg with a short length of wire attached into the upper and lower gum, then the wires twisted together to hold the jaws together. Now that IS “Ugh!”

    • Thursday 9th May 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Nicholas, you describe perfectly the method I endorse and have always used.
      Thanks.
      I agree too about the needle injector…..
      – Nick

  2. Monday 22nd April 2013 at 1:39 pm

    We have used this neck collar for the past thirteen years. It passes a very simple test we have: How would the family react if we told them the truth? We can either stitch your mum’s mouth shut, or use this slightly obtrusive collar. No contest.
    And yes, I know there are a lot of more invasive procedures done to bodies such as post mortems, but the mouth is such an emotive and symbolic part of us, that it needs an etiquette all of it’s own.

  3. Sunday 21st April 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you for this arcane undertakerly lore, Nick. The natural expression former could also be useful to the living when trying to keep a straight face, perhaps.

    This discussion is beginning to remind me of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, where Mr Joyboy woos Aimee Thanategenos with the expression on the corpses he sends through to her:

    ”When I send a Loved One into you, Miss Thanatogenos, I feel as if I were speaking to you through him’; so the expressions of the Loved Ones, when they arrive in her cubicle, tell the story of Joyboy’s heart, waxing from serenity to jubilance, reverting to an expression of bottomless woe…

    In terms of consumer choice, I think arrangers ought to quiz ‘families’ about the expression they would like to see on their LO, offering the full spectrum of human pathognomy from Christian resignation to celestial bliss, including also the one I’d like for myself, thoroughly naffed off.

    • Monday 22nd April 2013 at 10:24 am

      The whimsical? The quizzical? ..oh no – that a different film…

  4. Sunday 21st April 2013 at 9:23 am

    Getting the mouth “just right” is, in my humble view, one of the most important aspects of any arrangement – if not THE most important.

    It helps, naturally, if you have a photo or personal knowledge of the subject.

    In the past, I have had many a heart warming comment along the lines of “it’s as if you knew him”, or “he looks just like he used to look before he got those last bloody dentures”. You get the drift….

    My “secret”, which is shared with hundreds of FDs and embalmers worldwide, is the use of the mouth suture combined with a small piece of plastic called a “natural expression former”. They’ve been around for at least 20 years that I know of, and are an american design.

    A little piece of lightly formed thin plastic, that magically seems to work wonders whenever it’s used – with or without dentures. I commend them to anyone in the trade who has not tried them.

    But, don’t try this at home….

  5. Saturday 20th April 2013 at 10:32 pm

    I don’t know that I’d go as far as ‘abomination’ Richard. There are ways of achieving a jaw suture without bringing a needle right down through the skin as in the ‘part one’ video above. I’ve certainly never done it that way.

    The NorMors gadget may go a long way to solving the problem – I’ll certainly give it a go now I’m aware of it. Whilst not being fully comfortable with jaw suturing, it is infinitely better IMHO than suggesting that someone visits a chapel of rest to see their relative for the last time, jaw wide open.

    Two questions:

    1. Does this gadget stretch post-mortem suturing?
    2. Given the invasion of a post mortem, and the subsequent suturing required, is a jaw suture really something to worry about?

    • Sunday 21st April 2013 at 12:13 am

      1. From my own pre-mortem experience the pressure is all from the sides to the neck, exerting no stretch to a Y.
      2. PM is invasive but necessary; the jaw suture is cosmetic. The difference may be philosophical but may also be crucial.

      Agreed, the US through-the-skin method is not British; it was the closest I could find in a quick Google search having abandoned ‘mouth suture’ (fruitless) and switched to ‘submandibular suture’. Again, the degree of difference is debatable.

      Gaping jaw is definitely a no-no.

  6. Richard

    Saturday 20th April 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Nice headline which I didn’t get at first. Ashamed to say I didn’t know what a suture was until I’d read to the end. What an abomination.

  7. DMarsh

    Saturday 20th April 2013 at 3:19 am

    I’ve noticed that we have several of these chin collars that have been gathering dust at our chapel of rest for many years. This post has intrigued me to test them out and see how well they work. I’ll let you know how I get on!

    • Saturday 20th April 2013 at 11:41 am

      Do, please, DMarsh. When information is freely available on the internet, it’s increasingly important that funeral directors don’t do things that “bereaved people don’t need to know about” and which could be seen as a betrayal of trust.

  8. Friday 19th April 2013 at 8:34 pm

    It’s made by NorMors, Fran. They call it a chin collar. http://www.normors.no/empty_7.html

  9. Friday 19th April 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I worked for Anne some years ago, before she created Rosedale, and can 100% vouch for her and Simon’s brilliance. Am totally unsurprised that all the Rosedale branches attained GFG accreditation without effort, and equally unsurprised that the Beckett-Allen business leads the way in solving the tricky problem of closing dead mouths with a simple support rather than the customary brutal suturing. I’ve done the latter many many times during those days when I also worked for one of the groups as a lowly jobbing FD, and always felt quite sick thinking about what exactly it was that I was doing. Am glad to say that I won’t ever do it again.

    What’s the name of this device Charles – is it easily available or is it a Simon invention? Either way, it needs to be mass marketed to all funeral directors everywhere! We’ll be happy to start by encouraging all of the 150+ NDC’s Recommended Funeral Directors to use these instead of whatever they currently do…!

    • Friday 19th April 2013 at 8:45 pm

      I wish it was a Simon invention, how proud would I be. I told Charles earlier this week if I never achieved anything in the funeral profession, I would be happy to have had some influence over the profession doing away with the suture.

      The chin supports cost about £5.00 each and can be sterilised and re-used over and over. They are available from Allsops and are called a Normors Neck brace.

      Product Code: VG081
      Easy to fit by one person.
      The Normors neck brace is fitted half way around the neck
      resting along the jaw line and on the collar bone.
      Very discreet when in place.
      Bio-degradable and cremation friendly – does not emit any
      waste gases when cremated.
      Standard size.
      10 per box.

      Thank you for your kind comments, and for your offer to make NDC’s recommended Funeral directors aware. Hope to see you at he show in June. Simon

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