Why Are Legs Covered in the Casket at a Funeral?

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While the funeral plays an important role in the grieving process, there is still a lot of mystery around this process. In many cultures and traditions, it’s common to have the casket present at the funeral service. Families choose between a closed or open-casket funeral

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However, in many cases, the legs are covered within the casket either by the lid of the casket or a blanket. Why are legs covered in the casket at a funeral? There are a lot of scientific and practical reasons behind this. The more you understand how bodies are placed in caskets, the better prepared you are to make decisions about your own end-of-life wishes and loved one’s final arrangements. 

It’s easy to overlook the placement of the body in the casket, but some might find themselves with more questions than answers. In this guide, we’ll pull back the curtain on the funeral industry to talk about why legs are covered in the casket at a funeral. What does this mean, and what should you know about this process?

Reasons Legs Are Covered in a Casket at a Funeral or Viewing

With that in mind, what are the various reasons legs are covered in a casket at a funeral or viewing? Though many might jump to conclusions, this is usually a practical feature of many caskets. It’s also to preserve the family’s view of the deceased during an open-casket viewing. 

Type of casket

One of the most common reasons legs are covered in a casket is simply because of the type of casket. There is a difference between a full- or half-couch casket. A full-couch casket opens fully, while a half-couch casket has two panels on the top separating the top half of the body and the lower half of the body from view. 

Half-couch caskets are more common and are what most people are familiar with. It’s practical for only the top half of the casket to be opened during the funeral service for aesthetic purposes. Ultimately, this is the family’s choice.

Cause of death

Another important note is that the cause of death can impact how someone is presented at a viewing. If the embalmer has a difficult time presenting the body (depending on trauma), they might focus solely on their face. This means the bottom half is not as suitable for viewing, and it’s covered with a blanket or half-couch casket for privacy. 

Swelling of feet

When we die, parts of our bodies swell. A lot of things happen to our bodies when we die. This has to do with the natural decomposition process. While many modern embalming practices help fight this, it’s normal for the deceased to appear larger and more swollen than they did in life. 

This means it’s not always possible to put shoes on the dead, and many embalmers leave their feet bare or in socks. Because it would look odd to show socks or bare feet at a funeral service, this is usually covered with a blanket or cloth. 

Height restraints

Though this might sound grotesque, it’s common practice to adjust the size of the body to fit standard caskets. Oversized caskets do exist, but they’re hard to find and can be costly. If a family wishes to bury their loved one in a standard-sized casket, their height might need to be adjusted. 

This is done by removing the feet or lower parts of the body to accommodate for the casket size with the approval of the family. Though it might sound unpleasant, funeral directors do this with the utmost care and respect. The lower half of the body is covered for privacy and comfort. 

Organ donation

Another reason why the lower half of the body is covered could be related to organ donation. If someone donated their skin tissue after death, this is usually taken from the lower half of the body. This means the body will be preserved in a special plastic undergarment to protect it from leaking into the casket. To cover this, the lower half will not be exposed at the funeral viewing. 

Lighting

Though you likely don’t realize it, funeral homes go to great lengths to present deceased loved ones under the best lighting. This warm lighting helps create a sense of ease and peace, making the deceased appear to be in a calm slumber. 

By covering the lower half, the funeral home does not need to dedicate as much time to lighting this part of the body and can focus on the face. Since most people respond to their loved one’s faces, this makes practical sense. This is known as cosmetic lighting, and it’s common practice in the funeral industry. 

Cosmetics

Last but not least, it’s simply not practical or affordable to dedicate time and resources toward the cosmetic appearance of the entire body. Funeral makeup professionals are skilled at helping the deceased appear more lifelike, but this attention is typically focused solely on the face. While the family can request anything they wish, this is a practical, cost-effective solution. 

What Other Body Parts Might Be Covered in a Casket and Why?

Other than the legs of the deceased, other body parts might be covered in a casket. This is done for practical purposes as well, though the family is free to insist on their own wishes. An open-casket funeral is an opportunity to say goodbye. Most wish for this to be as peaceful and life-like as possible, lending to some coverings. 

Hands and arms

If the dead faced any trauma prior to their death on their hands or arms, these would also be hidden under a blanket. This is typical also if skin tissues are donated after death. Depending on the family’s wishes and cause of death, the arms might be covered with a blanket, long sleeves, or a sheet. 

The entire body below the neck

In some cultures, it’s normal to display only the head. In Singapore, for example, there is a cut-out in the casket for the face. Otherwise, the rest of the body below the neck is hidden from view. This just shows the role culture and regional differences play in funeral practices. 

Abdomen

If the individual is embalmed, their abdomen is always covered. During the process of embalming, liquids are injected through the abdomen. This means the area needs to be covered to maintain its appearance. This area is typically covered by clothing, a blanket, or sheet. However, it’s important to note that embalming is not usually required. 

Preparing for a Funeral Viewing

Many are comforted by the idea that their loved ones are well cared for by their funeral directors in these final stages. These professionals go above and beyond to make sure loved one’s look peaceful and presentable for their final viewing. 

Whether you’re attending or planning a funeral viewing, you might have wondered why some parts of the body are covered. Now that you know the practical and cost-effective reasons behind this practice, you’re ready to make educated decisions about your own plans. To share your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones, create a free Cake profile


Sources:
  1. “All You Need to Know About Choosing a Coffin or Casket in Singapore.” Funeral Flowers Singapore. FuneralFlowersSingapore.com
  2. “What Is Cosmetic Lighting for Funerals?” Kari the Mortician. YouTube.com
  3. “When Are Plastic Undergarments Used on the Dead?” Kari the Mortician. YouTube.com

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