Now begins the process of placing the facial features and the body itself in the position it will remain in the casket for viewing. This is done before arterial embalming, because the body will be truly "set," firmed in position once formaldehyde reaches the tissues.
The embalmer places the remains straight from head to toe on the embalming table. The arms are held in position, usually with hands folded across the stomach, by a special positioning device. The head is placed on a head block, and many embalmers will tilt the head 15 degrees to the right so mourners can more easily see the face.
Great care is taken to close the eyes. The traditional method for doing this involves placing a bit of cotton between the eye and eyelid. Many times after death the eyes sink back into their sockets, so small plastic "eye caps" are placed on each eye ball. An eye cap is shaped like a large contact lens and has a textured surface that grips and holds the eyelid in place. A small amount of stay creme is placed on the eye cap to avoid dehydration of the eyelids. Contrary to popular myth, the eyelids are never sewn shut, but in some cases that may be glued together to prevent separation.
The mouth is closed either by tying the jaw together with a piece of suture string or by a special injector gun. With the suture method, a curved needle with a piece of suture string is threaded through the jaw below the gums, stuck through upper jaw into to the right nostril, threaded through the septum of the nose into the left nostril, and then passed back down into the mouth. The two ends of suture are tied, making sure not too tightly, so that a natural appearance of the mouth is created. Some embalmers prefer to close the mouth using the needle injector gun. The gun drives a needle with a piece of wire attached into the jaw. Needles are driven into both the lower and upper jaw and then twisted together.
To finish closing the mouth, many times a mouth former is used. A mouth former is similar to an eye cap as it has a textured side that grips the lips, but it is shaped like the mouth. A small amount of stay creme is also used on the mouth to avoid dehydration and help hold the lips in place. The mortician may also squeeze inside the mouth a little mastic compound, a paste kind of like caulk to give the mouth a more pleasing shape.