Posted: August 12th, 2013
Maryam A. Al-kaabi
In his essay, “The Undertaking”, Thomas Lynch describes his profession as a funeral director in a small town. The number of years that Lynch has worked in the funeral business has given him enough knowledge on the issue of death. Many people think that funeral directors spend much time with the dead for them to care for the living. Lynch clarifies this, and he notes that much of the funeral directors work concerns the living. His favorite moments are when the person who was widowed tells him how much he or she appreciates the services offered – “Thank you, I couldn’t have done this without you (PBS 2)”. The dead are not there to thank or appreciate the person who is preparing them for funerals. They do not understand the important services that funeral directors offer. They do not understand the helplessness that their loved ones feel when they die. Therefore, Lynch concludes that the dead do not matter. The dead do not care, and because of this, they cannot help pay the bills, arrange and determine their own funerals, or even console and comfort those who they have left. He has observed several things while at work, and this has made him declare that the dead do not care.
Lynch talks of how people die at any time. He says, “They die around the clock here, without apparent preference for a day of the week, month of the year; there is no clear favorite in the way of season” (Lynch 336). They do not have any choice in the moment they die. A person would probably prefer to die at a certain month, date, day, or even season. However, once a person dies, he or she has no recollection of such preferences. People can die at any time or any place. Death does not respect anyone, and it has a way of distorting a person’s plans. Someone might die earlier or later than he or she had anticipated. For instance, someone might have planned to die on a certain day, and when that day arrives, he or she looks for ways of dying, such as suicide. The suicide attempt fails, and the person is taken to the hospital, where he might remain for a long time. That person then dies at another date, which he had not planned. A person who has cancer or another illness considered terminal might give himself few months to live, but that person can get healed and he or she ends up dying of old age. Death does not respect a person’s preference or tastes.
According to Lynch, “Being a dead saint is no more worthwhile than being a dead philodendron or a dead angelfish” (Lynch 337). In other words, once a person dies, it does not matter the contributions that that person made to the world. The dead person will not remember the funds he helped raise, the charities he supported, or the homeless people he helped when he was alive, for that is the duty of the living. The dead person will not remember the people he hurt and abandoned, the person he stole from, or even the person he killed. That is left to the memory of those who live, for the dead do not care. Some people live their lives in the service of others, while others live to fulfill their own ambitions, without any thought for other people. When these two people die, they do not care, since they are not in a position to do so. The living will remembers those who died based on how they lived. The saint will receive praise from the many people who will attend his wake. The person lived a happy and commendable life, and he helped many people in different circumstances. On the other hand, a thief might not receive as much praise. Few if any people will attend his funeral. The two contrasting situations demonstrate how those who are alive treat the dead. The situations demonstrate the level of care that those who are left behind show the dead. Despite this, those who are dead do not care. The thief does not care that no person came to eulogize him and offer him complements. The saint does not care that many people praised him and recognized his achievements.
Lynch observes that, “There is nothing, once you are dead, that can be done to you or for you or with you or about you that will do you any good or any harm” (Lynch 337). However much a person was active when he was alive, he or she is of no use once dead. People cannot include dead people in their plans, since they do not have anyway of contributing. Many people attempt to praise those who are dead during funerals, and they do not do the same when the people are alive. What many people fail to understand is that the dead do not care of all the words spoken about the. The words have no way of reaching them once the people are dead. Lynch has worked with corpses for long. He has helped in preparing dead people for burial. In some circumstances, this has involved treating the bodies in different ways to make them more presentable. He has observed that however much he makes up the body, it does not do any good to the person who is dead, but it is often done for the sake of those who are living. They are the ones to see the body and live with the effects. The dead person does not care that his face appears distorted. He does not care whether he appears natural or made up. The dead person does not care, that he does not seem presentable. These things do not matter to him, for he is already dead. The dead do not care about revenge, since no one can harm them more at their state. They are already dead, and they cannot feel the pain. If the person died a bitter person and one who was angry at the world, these feelings do not matter. If the person died having many enemies, this does not matter to the dead person. He or she is not concerned with the friends or families that he left behind, they are the ones who are concerned about him.
Lynch notes that although the dead do not care, they do matter. The people who are left have to bear with the consequences of death. As Lynch states, “I go for her—because she still can cry and care and pray and pay my bill” (Lynch 339). The dead do not care that the people they left behind cry for them. They do not care when such people are depressed or when they experience loneliness because they have been left by loved ones. The dead do not care when those who are left behind have financial difficulties or when they face other struggles in life, for that it the concern of the living. Lynch notes that, “When a death occurs, people feel so helpless, it’s good to have some of these things already invented” (PBS 3). However much dead people loved their spouses and partners, they cannot offer them enough words to comfort them. Those who are left behind mourn for the dead. In addition, they have to take care of the funeral expenses, such as paying the medical directors. The dead might have cared previously, but this soon changes once they are dead. They cannot do anything much for their loved ones.
Thomas Lynch describes his profession as a funeral director in a small town. This being a family business, he has done it for a long time, and he has come to have a clear understanding of his profession. He says that, “When you grow up in funeral service, you always have a job. But at some point it becomes more than a job” (PBS 2). Many people only think of funeral directors when they have to use their services. Therefore, they do not understand that it is a business and that someone has to do it. Lynch describes how, as a funeral director, he has to bury and cremate many people, who have died from his town. This has given him some experience in dealing with the death, the corpses, and families affected by death. People are affected significantly when someone they know and loves dies. Families who have lost loved ones want to ensure that the person receives a dignified send off, and they will often incur many expenses to achieve this. Despite all the efforts, the dead never know anything, and they are not in a position to approve or disprove anything. Through these experiences, he has come to learn that the dead do not care.
People tend to spend a lot of money on funerals. They do everything to ensure that the dead is buried as he or she could have wanted. They go to the extent of borrowing money to cater for all the expenses. Some people are so concerned about their death when they are alive, that they start preparing early. They treat their death as one would treat a wedding. They locate the site to be buried, the music to be played during their funeral, and even the clothes they want to be buried in when they die. They take such measures to ensure that nothing goes wrong. They even arrange for transportation. People associate such actions with weddings and not funerals. People have become more accepting towards death. They no longer fear to talk about death and dying. Previously, these were taboo topics in families, and the one who spoke about them was frowned upon, since it was thought that he or she willed death on another person. Being comfortable with death has its own advantages, since in most cases; it prepares those who are left for the inevitable.
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