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

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

Thomas G. Long and Thomas Lynch. Westminster John Knox, $25 (272p) ISBN 978-0-664-23853-7

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.)