I watched most of an excellent and touching Frontline episode last night on PBS. It was called The Undertaking. Thomas Lynch is a writer and poet in a small town in Michigan, and he’s also a funeral director. His family has been caring for the dead in his hometown for three generations. Given my background, this certainly caught my attention. I was not disappointed.
Matt Roush with TV Guide described the show this way:
Steering clear of Six Feet Under irony, this deeply moving meditation on mortality shows the Lynch family business going about its work with quiet reverence. … Far from being depressing, The Undertaking lifts the spirits by reminding us that, in Lynch’s words, ‘The dead matter to the living,’ and that the ritual of a funeral helps return the grieving ‘to life with the certain knowledge that life has changed.’
Lynch believes as do (and recently commented on), “We have in some ways become estranged from death and the dead. We’re among the first couple of generations for whom the presence of the dead at their own funerals has become optional. And I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.”
The Lynch family believes that the rituals of a funeral are more than mere formalities. “Funerals are the way we close the gap between the death that happens and the death that matters,” Lynch contends. “A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.”
I want to read Lynch’s book now, but I would encourage everyone to try to watch on-line or order the DVD. This was a very thoughtful look at something that haunts us all.