Posted: August 7th, 2013
His Profession Made Him Think that the Dead do not Care
In his essay, “The Undertaking”, 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. Many people only think of funeral directors when they have to use their services. Therefore, they do not understand that it 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.
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. 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. 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). 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 remember 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). 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. No one can harm him or her more at his state. He is already dead, and he 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, “Months after my father died, I can remember this wave of feelings that would come over me, catching me at the most unpredictable times, this wallop of him being dead, him being gone. And it was over, oftentimes, the most mundane of circumstances” (PBS). 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.
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. 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, Thomas. The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. New York, NY: W. W. Norton, 2010. Print
PBS. An Interview with Thomas Lynch. Public Broadcasting Service. 2007. Web. 12 October, 2012
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