Pub. Date:
Westminster John Knox Press
Pub. Date:
Westminster John Knox Press
The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care

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

by Thomas G. Long, Thomas LynchThomas G. Long
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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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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780664238537
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication date: 09/06/2013
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Thomas G. Long is Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, and is one of the most popular preachers in the United States today. He is the author of many books, including The Witness of Preaching, Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible, and The Good Funeral (cowritten with Thomas Lynch).

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

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"

Table of Contents

Foreword Patrick Lynch ix

Foreword Barbara Brown Taylor xv

Acknowledgments xxi

Preface xxiii

Why We Do This

1 How We Come to Be the Ones We Are Thomas Lynch 3

2 Falling into Ministry, Learning about Death Thomas G. Long 31

Caring for the Dead

3 Humanity 101 Thomas Lynch 53

4 Habeas Corpus … Not Thomas G. Long 83

Funeral Directors and Clergy

5 Our Own Worst Enemies Thomas Lynch 113

6 Funeral Directors … Who Needs Them? Thomas G. Long 157

The Funeral

7 The Theory and Practice of Cremation Thomas Lynch 181

8 A Sense of Movement, a Sense of Meaning, a Sense of Hope: The Good Funeral Thomas G. Long 195

The Grieving

9 Grief and the Search for Meaning Thomas G. Long 221

10 All Saints, All Souls: A Coda Thomas Lynch 227

Notes 239

Index 247

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