When I was a kid, what I knew about undertakers was learned through the squared-circle. And even as an adult there is not much about undertakers that I could tell you about with any certainty. That changed last week when Jason and I had a chance to speak with Thomas Lynch.
Thomas Lynch is an undertaker in Milford, Michigan. In addition to his work in his families funeral home, Mr. Lynch is also an author, essayist, and poet. You can find his writing in The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. He is the inspiration behind the show ‘Six Feet Under’. He has also was the subject of a PBS Frontline special.
Undertaking and funeral direction is more than just disposal of bodies for Mr. Lynch. While listening to him I was able to see that not only is Mr. Lynch caring for those who have departed this life but also does whom the departed have left behind. While caring for those who are in the midst of grief, Mr. Lynch’s calling is clear: ensure that the departed’s bodies are handled with the utmost care and respect, while at the same time seeing to it that those left behind are cared for with the same attention.
I’d be willing to bet that Mr. Lynch attends more funerals by Wednesday than I have in my entire life. Of the funerals I have attended, the majority of those services have been where the deceased has chosen to be created. Cremation seemed to me to be a very impersonal way of disposing of a body. I assumed that the dead were placed into the crematorium, the timer was set, and the staff returned later to clean up the remains. After talking with Mr. Lynch, and watching the PBS Frontline special, my thoughts on this have changed. A family can and should be just as involved with the cremation of the body of a loved one as they are when the departed is buried in the ground. Not only out of love for the individual but also respect for the body.
Mr. Lynch made it abundantly clear to me through his caring tone and even his poetry that his calling to undertaking is not one that he takes lightly, nor would he choose to do anything else. The highlight of our conversation was when Mr. Lynch read a poem for us that he has yet to publish, what a treat!
You check out the entire interview here:
A full listing of Mr. Lynch’s books can found here.