The Ancient Egyptians mummified their dead in preparation for their crossing into the afterlife. Today we know that the body is just a temporary housing while we're alive yet some still continue to request of us to attempt to preserve the dead body and make it appear as if it's sleeping. The reason why? Well to a lot of people today, embalming is a useless, costly, endeavor that is merely performed so that the undertaker can make money. There is no question that the funeral director makes money when someone is embalmed but is that cost that the family pays to the embalmer really worth it to them? You'd better believe it!
Many people have their minds set as to whether they want to have a traditional funeral or if they want something else. With that in mind, there are certain people who know that they want a family member embalmed for whatever reason; it's those people who benefit from the process.
I have personally taken people from their deathbeds who have looked as if they had just gone through some sort of torture, faces contorted, discolored, sores, some emaciated, some bloated. That is the picture a family remembers in their minds...until the embalmer gets a photo and clothing and maybe eyeglasses and jewelry. We aren't trying to make anyone believe that the dead person in the casket is alive; we're just trying to paint a nicer picture for the memory to focus on. But does this really work? I guess for some it does but for others it's almost impossible to get the initial picture of the deceased out of their minds. But maybe for those people, their remembrance is a necessary one, although unpleasant, necessary. And for the ones that leave a funeral remembering how beautiful mom looked, I guess that's necessary too.