Thomas Lynch, an award-winning writer who also happens to be an undertaker who comes from a family of funeral directors, was one of the star speakers at the 2013 National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) annual convention and expo.
He and Dr. Thomas Long, a theologian, co-wrote a book just introduced at the convention, The Good Funeral (Westminster John Knox Press). We spoke one-on-one in the press room at the convention.
Lynch said, “Both Dr. Long and I feel the culture at large took a turn in the wrong direction some years ago when they sort of declared a jihad on the cookie-cutter funeral and got into these sort of monogrammed, one-off, highly-personalized funerals. One of the things we seem to have missed is the essential qualities and we’ve gotten sort of over-focused on the accessories.”
“A good funeral is one in which by getting the dead where they need to go, the living get where they need to be,” he explained. “So the dead are not sort of incidental to a funeral, the dead are the reason we have funerals… The corpse should be central to what goes on at a funeral.”
When asked if families that opt for direct cremation are doing themselves a disservice, he said, “What we’re suggesting is that if those families want to have a direct cremation, they should come with us to the crematory, because that is the good funeral – the living getting the dead where they need to go.”
“Cremation is fine. But if you are going to cremate your dead, go to the edge of the fire, in much the same way as those who were going to bury their dead were encouraged to go to the edge of the open ground.”
You can hear other comments from Thomas Lynch in this brief interview.