Want to wash and dress body of loved one after death?

 The Life Celebrant, a funeral company, is planning to launch a service which will allow children and relatives to wash the hair and body of their dead parents and loved ones.
The Life Celebrant, a funeral company, is planning to launch a service which will allow children and relatives to wash the hair and body of their dead parents and loved ones. PHOTO: THE LIFE CELEBRANT

One funeral company plans to offer such a 'therapeutic activity' but other players say it may not be appropriate

Washing someone's hair and body, and dressing them in their favourite attire - these are some of the intimate acts of love that parents share with their children.

Now, children and relatives can do the same - one last time - for their dead parents and loved ones. A funeral home is planning to launch such a service here.

Such procedures are usually carried out by funeral professionals behind closed doors for Buddhists, Christians and Taoists, although it is a traditional practice for Muslims and Hindus to wash the body of family members.

The Life Celebrant, a funeral company which caters to all groups besides Hindus and Muslims, hopes that this "therapeutic activity" can help people get through their grief and find closure earlier.

During the process, family members sit in a private room in front of the embalmed body, which is covered with towels.

They can help to wash the hair, wipe the hands and feet, or apply moisturiser to the hands and face.

FINAL SEND-OFF

Those exclusive moments with her behind closed doors have brought us peace, and perhaps stronger ties among our family members.

MR K. LIM, a businessman who turned to The Life Celebrant to arrange a dressing ritual for his late mother.

They can also help to dress the body, buttoning up the jacket or putting on jewellery.

Ms Ang Jolie Mei, the funeral company's managing director, said she was inspired by the concept of the 2008 Japanese film Departures.

The Academy Award-winning film is about a nokanshi, or a Japanese mortician, who prepares bodies for burial and entry into the next life.

The movie highlights the beauty and dignity of such work.

The ritual of partially preparing the body in full view of a family is done in places such as Taiwan, Japan and China. "It gives people a chance to take part in the final process and have a safe place to cry or say things they want to say to the departed," said Ms Ang.

After Departures was released, she started getting two to three requests a month for such a service so she visited Japan and China to see how their funeral professionals do the job.

Other funeral companies feel that such a practice may not be appropriate here.

Singapore Casket's senior manager Calvin Tang said: "The context is different from that in Taiwan.

"A funeral here is three to five days, compared to weeks in Taiwan, so the undertakers there have more time to get the family involved."

It could take thrice as long to prepare the body, compared to the work of a well-trained mortician, he added.

He noted that most Hindus prefer to wash the body for traditional or religious reasons but Buddhists, Taoists and Christians do not.

A few may opt for a symbolic buttoning of the clothes.

Another funeral director, who declined to be named, said many people are not comfortable with the bodies of even their loved ones and the ritual may even be traumatic.

But Ms Ang said she thinks there is demand for such a service, which will be launched next month for about $1,500.

Last month, after being turned down by another funeral parlour, Mr K. Lim turned to The Life Celebrant, which arranged a dressing ritual for his 72-year-old mother.

Family members helped with the wearing of her jacket and shoes and witnessed her make-up and hairstyling being done.

Said Mr Lim, 41, a businessman: "Those exclusive moments with her behind closed doors have brought us peace, and perhaps stronger ties among our family members."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'Want to wash and dress body of loved one after death?'. Print Edition | Subscribe