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The Undertaking

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

by Thomas Lynch

America, in particular, fears death and change. We put our death as far out of our thoughts as possible and are shocked when it comes knocking on our door. Murder mysteries such as Agatha Christie lack the physical aspects of death - such as blood, urine, grief, and coldness. Movies kill dozens of "the enemy" with a single shot while the hero moves on to their glory. Our culture is like the flirtatious virgin, having courted and winked at Death, yet not willing to fully embrace our passion for life or our ultimate destiny.

For me death has rarely been personal, it is a great unknown. Though I have lost family members, I have only been to one funural. Family covered my eyes from death as you would a childs when nudity comes on the screen. Thus I do know what what lies inside - the strengths the weakness - or of how I will greet the Barron when he comes into my home and taps me or my loved ones. Yet those who know me would classify my archetype as Persephone - for what intregues us more than what we fear? For this reason I picked up this book. And from it I learned more about compassion and life.

This book is one of those - dare I say it - ground breaking books. Written by an undertaker it explores the lessons and metaphors his career has shown him. There is no better way to begin to understand life than to also begin to understand death. Death can teach us that each moment is precious and the stories in this book, though at times hard, remind the reader that death is a companion throughout life telling us to live fully. In the end isn't that the greatest lesson that loss teaches us.

A funeral director in Milford, Michigan, Lynch's style is compassionate yet does not buffer the reader from reality. He proclaims that he and all poets are "looking for meaning and voices in life and love and death." He has found such a voice and through it offers insight, comfort, and even humor.

At times the stories ache inside of you and at others you find yourself nodding as if someone finally answered a riddle whose answer had long evaded you. There is no area of death hidden in his elegant stream-of-consciousness. The writer graciously starts off by preparing us for the chapters ahead. This book is about the living... for the dead, he reminds us, don't care.

Reviewed by Trinity


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