The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care

Overview

Two of the most authoritative voices on the funeral industry come together here in one volume to discuss the current state of the funeral. Through their different lenses--one as a preacher and one as a funeral director--Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch alternately discuss several challenges facing "the good funeral," including the commercial aspects that have led many to be suspicious of funeral directors, the sometimes tense relationship between pastors and funeral directors, the tendency of modern funerals to ...

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The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care

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Overview

Two of the most authoritative voices on the funeral industry come together here in one volume to discuss the current state of the funeral. Through their different lenses--one as a preacher and one as a funeral director--Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch alternately discuss several challenges facing "the good funeral," including the commercial aspects that have led many to be suspicious of funeral directors, the sometimes tense relationship between pastors and funeral directors, the tendency of modern funerals to exclude the body from the service, and the rapid growth in cremation. The book features forewords from Patrick Lynch, President of the National Funeral Directors Association, and Barbara Brown Taylor, highly praised author and preacher. It is an essential resource for funeral directors, morticians, and pastors, and anyone else interested in current funeral practices.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 08/12/2013
Long (Accompany Them with Singing), a Presbyterian pastor and acclaimed preacher, and Lynch (The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade), a funeral director who is a gifted writer, have both made significant contributions to recent conversations about end-of-life issues. They combine efforts in this personal and scholarly commentary on contemporary death-related practices. Each contributes a chapter to each of five sections: “Why We Do This,” “Caring for the Dead,” “Funeral Directors and Clergy,” “The Funeral,” and “The Grieving,” weaving personal narratives of their callings with expert analysis of recent changing attitudes toward dead bodies, disposition of remains, undertakers, and religious rituals. Both reference the impact of Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death in shaping societal views, and respond to her criticisms with candor and insight. Both also emphasize the importance of funerals in getting “the dead where they need to go and the living where they need to be.” Patrick Lynch, the author’s brother and colleague in the funeral trade, and Barbara Brown Taylor offer forewords to this perceptive, practical resource full of thoughtful guidance for professionals in their fields, and for anyone interested in caring for the dead and those who mourn. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"[E]veryone should read this book, for we all share the task of caring for the living and for the dead." -- Matthew A. Rich, in Interpretation
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780664238537
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
  • Publication date: 9/6/2013
  • Sales rank: 166,483
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas G. Long is Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and one of the most popular preachers in the United States today. He is the author of many books, including Accompany Them With Singing—The Christian Funeral and The Witness of Preaching.

Thomas Lynch is a funeral director and the author of several books of essays, poems, and short stories. His book, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has been the subject of two documentary films including the Emmy Award-winning The Undertaking (PBS Frontline, 2007). Visit his website at www.thomaslynch.com.

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Read an Excerpt

"What happened to me while working at my father's funeral home was that folks began to treat me like a hero. They were so grateful when we would show up at the hospital or nursing home or family home in the middle of the night, so grateful for the way we handled their dead carefully and with respect. Or leaving after a long day's visitation at the funeral home, when a widow would hold me by the shoulders and tell me how very comforting it was to have us parking the cars and holding the doors and taking the coats and casseroles, directing folks to the proper parlor and bringing the flowers and for 'just being there.' Or turning from the graveside once everything that could be done had been done, how they would shake my hand or hug me and thank me profusely because 'we couldn't have done this without you . . . thank you. . . God bless you. . .' or heartfelt words to that effect. Such effusions made me feel useful and capable and helpful, as if I'd accomplished the job well done and all I really did was show up, pitch in, do my part. Before long I began to understand that showing up, being there, helping in an otherwise helpless situation was made heroic by the same gravity I had sensed when I first stood in that embalming room as a boy—the presence of the dead made the presence of the living more meaningful somehow, as if it involved a basic and intuitively human duty to witness."
—from Chapter 1, "How We Come to Be the Ones We Are"

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