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
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
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