Last night, my husband and I watched an episode of Frontline from 2007, The Undertaking. The program was excellent.
The story is told through the eyes of a funeral director whose family has been in the business for three generations. His son was also on the program and in the business. He said he grew up with people saying that his father worked with dead people, but he had always see the exact opposite, his father worked the living.
The remark was striking and after watching the program, I think the son is correct. His father did very little but help the living plan their funerals or bury or cremate their dead. This business is often considered cheesy or full of shysters, but I’m not sure that’s the certainly. Certainly the funeral director in this case, came across as very hard working, respectful of the dead and as caring as a professional could be, when their job is it bury 200 people in their town each year.
The also interviewed a number of family members who had people dying, or people who wanted to make their own arrangements. There was one woman who was diagnosed with lung cancer and checked herself into hospice. It was said she had searched for faith in her life, but never found it. I thought that was a great statement of fact for this woman as an individual. She was asked what she expected when death arrived and she came across as a Gemini archetype. She said she had no idea, as if she thought it would be quite interesting to see her death unfold.
There was also a young couple profiled who had a desperately ill baby, born with a rare genetic condition that would guarantee his life be quite short. The baby was really something, and the mother, one of the most eloquent young women I have seen, anywhere.
The reverence for he dead and dying, shown throughout the piece was deeply moving. I highly recommend, Frontline: The Undertaking I think anyone who sees it will be enriched. We’ve become so jaded about death and dying and the philosophies this program will expose you to are quite healing and empowering.
How do you feel about funerals and what are your perception of the funeral business in general? Where do your feelings and perceptions come from?