Krystal may be the only black female embalmer in Las Vegas!
Krystal Osborne remembers seeing the footage of a car accident on her grandmother’s television. The graphic details — broken glass, crushed cars and blood — would force many to squirm or look away.
But Osborne, who was just a child, wanted to get closer to the screen.
Shortly after, she said she became interested in becoming a mortician, where today she runs her own embalming business. She’s believed to be the only Black female mortician in Las Vegas.
She’s passionate about the industry because morticians provide families comfort and resolution after the death of a loved one.
“It gives me a very uneasy feeling inside when I might have a family and I’m noticing they’re not really getting the closure that I feel that they should get,” said Osborne, who has been working in the field for 18 years. “When you love what you do — and I’m not trying to be cocky — you’re good at what you do, do you know what I mean? I don’t get that (feeling) often, but that is definitely why I do what I do, to provide closure for families grieving.”
Osborne, a native Las Vegan, has Dallas Institute of Funeral Services accreditation and own her company, Krystal’s Professional Embalming Services. She is one of approximately 3,300 licensed morticians and funeral directors in the United States who are Black, with approximately 2,000 funeral homes and services being Black-owned, according to The New York Times.
There are nearly 40,000 morticians and funeral directors nationally.
Osborne also works at Giddens Memorial Chapel, a first-generation, Black-owned funeral home in Las Vegas directed and owned by Raymond Giddens Jr. and Kyle Giddens. About 13% of Clark County’s approximately 2.2 million residents are Black, according to 2020 Census data.
“The homegoing celebration within our culture is very important, and not just our culture, but a lot of cultures,” Raymond Giddens said. “People want that opportunity to say a final farewell, and they want it done the right way based on their culture.”
The homegoing service is a Black funeral tradition for those of the Christian faith, signaling the going home of the deceased to heaven.
Even if a victim’s body has sustained serious industries — like being run over by a car — Osborne said she has the tools to bring them close to their normal, recognizable selves. This is especially important if a family wishes to do an open-casket wake or funeral, the last chance to see their loved one.
“When we all die, we lose that natural rush of color,” said Osborne, who is licensed in Nevada, California and Hawaii. “I am a firm believer to not tell any family that (someone is unviewable). You may not be viewable per se, but just to be able to touch to your loved one’s hand, that provides closure.”
Osborne specializes in embalming bodies, body reconstruction, dress, makeup and hair, and in-casket bodies. Her day usually involves working on four or more bodies, and her schedule is constantly filled because of the pandemic.
Osborne begins the internal procedure with an incision in the deceased person’s carotid artery on the right side, filling it with arterial fluid, a chemical that preserves the body. She then drains the person’s blood through the jugular vein before adding aesthetic touches with mortuary makeup, often referring to a photo of the person on whom she is working.
Raymond Giddens described Osborne as exceptional in her craft and open to suggestions or changes when presented with them. She has also been a keen mentor to other newer embalmers, giving them her insight based on her education and personal experience in the industry.
A good working relationship between embalmers and funeral directors is essential to smooth business, he said. Families want to be satisfied on the front end — organizing the funeral itself — and when seeing their loved one for the last time, he said.
“There’s not a lot of embalmers in Nevada, especially Black female embalmers,” Raymond Giddens said. “She brings a lot of wealth and value to what we do, and just always encourages others to follow in her footsteps as well.”
And Giddens has seen a need in the community they serve. When the home opened in 2017, the memorial chapel hosted 80 funerals. By 2020, that number grew to 250 — including 35 COVID-related deaths. By the beginning of October, COVID-related funerals had risen to 42.
Because of the need, Giddens is planning a second location near downtown, telling members of the Las Vegas City Council during a presentation, “I am proud to be a licensed funeral director. There’s not a lot of us in business.”
The council in the fall approved his request for a second location after hordes of community members, including Osborne, showed up in support.