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Death & Dying: The Undertaking

Updated: Oct 15, 2022

"Enter the world of an undertaker whose family for three generations has cared for both the living and the dead in a small Michigan town, as families navigate loss, grief and mortality. (Aired 2007) Thomas Lynch is a writer and a poet. He's also a funeral director in a small town in central Michigan where he and his family have cared for the dead -- and the living -- for three generations. Moving and powerful, the 2007 documentary “The Undertaking” chronicles the intimate stories of families confronting loss, and the role of funeral rituals in helping them come to terms with their loved ones’ deaths. "Funerals are the way we close the gap between the death that happens and the death that matters," Lynch says in the documentary. "A good funeral gets the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be." from video introduction

Your death, my death is imminent, in fact it could be even today or tomorrow. It has been said that to die well we must first live well. We in wisdom should plan ahead as mush as life will allow for our death. If nothing else we must be at peace with our own mortality.

Are you? Are you at peace with your own mortality?

Back in the 1980's I and my family lived and worked at a local small town funeral home. What was once surreal became everyday normal. Death was before us constantly. During that year or so we buried many of our townsfolk, people we knew. May their memory be a blessing!

This video gives us an intimate inside look at the lives of those who care for the living and the dead. - Andy

"Thomas Lynch is the author of five collections of poems and four books of essays. A book of stories, Apparition & Late Fictions, published in 2010 to critical acclaim, is now available in paperback and can be purchased in bookstores and online.

A "Classic Contemporary" edition of Skating with Heather Grace, his first book of poems, has just be reissued by Carnegie-Mellon University Press. In 2011, Paraclete Press published The Sin Eater: A Breviary -- a collection of his sin-eater poems accompanied by black and white photographs by Michael Lynch and cover art by Sean Lynch. Salmon Press, The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland published an Irish edition in 2012. The Good Funeral - Death, Grief & The Community of Care, co-authored with theologian, Dr. Thomas G. Long, was published in September, 2013.

Thomas Lynch's work has been the subject of two film documentaries. PBS Frontline's The Undertaking, aired nationwide in 2007, won the 2008 Emmy Award for Arts and Culture Documentary. Cathal Black's film, Learning Gravity, produced for the BBC, was featured at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival and the 6th Traverse City Film Festival in 2009 where it was awarded the Michigan Prize by Michael Moore. He has taught with the Department of Mortuary Science at Wayne State University in Detroit, with the graduate program in writing at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and with the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. He is a charter member of the faculty of the Bear River Writers Conference at Walloon Lake in Michigan.

Thomas Lynch's essays, poems and stories have appeared in The Atlantic and Granta, The New York Times and Times of London, The New Yorker, Poetry and The Paris Review and elsewhere. He lives in Milford, Michigan where he has been the funeral director since 1974, and in Moveen, Co. Clare, Ireland where he keeps an ancestral cottage." from his website:

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