Embalming serves three purposes: sanitation, restoration, and temporary preservation.
During embalming, the body is sanitized to prevent the potential for disease to be spread to mourners. This includes, not only diseases carried by the individual while still alive, but also opportunistic diseases that may be harbored in the body and spread after death has occurred.
The process of embalming also serves to restore the body to a more viewable state. This is important, not only when trauma has compromised the body, but also to correct discolorations and natural changes that occur after death. By embalming, a more pleasant final memory picture of your loved one can be obtained.
Finally, embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition. This allows family members time to arrange for, travel to, and participate in the type of funeral service most comforting to them.