A new PBS documentary based off of an award-winning book probes the funeral industry. CAN BE LOCALIZED.
Thomas Lynch is a writer and a poet. He is also an undertaker.
Working as the funeral director in a small town in central Michigan for most of his life Lynch says, being an undertaker requires both a compassion for the living and the dead.
“A good funeral is one that gets the dead where the need to go and the living where they need to be,” said Lynch.
The PBS series Frontline debuted a documentary called “The Undertaking” on WXXI-TV, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, based off of the award winning book “The Undertaking” written by Lynch.
The film paints a portrait of the Lynch family showing the rituals involved when it comes to being in the business of burying the dead.
“So much of what we do is held up to ridicule,” said Lynch. “Whether you want to see the silliness of what we humans do when someone dies, or if you look at it carefully and see something deeply sublime.”
In addition, to showing behind the scenes footage of the Lynch & Sons funeral home in Michigan the film also incorporates interviews with families like the Verrinos, who were facing the imminent death of their 2-year-old son, Anthony, who was born with a rare genetic disorder.
Scott Anthony, who is the vice president of the Anthony Funeral and Cremation Chapels in Brighton and Webster, says he sees the film as a real-life approach to the funeral industry.
“I know Mr. Lynch personally and his portrayal of funeral directors and what we do puts a very human and personal face to it,” said Anthony.
In May 2007, seven Rochester area funeral directors and residents were charged with crimes ranging from forgery to body stealing and opening graves, in response to the misuse and harvesting of body parts and tissues from area funeral homes without families permission.
Among the funeral homes that had personnel indicted locally were the Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home Inc. in Hilton, SWB Funeral Services Inc., also known as the Profetta Funeral Chapel in Webster, and the Serenity Hills Funeral Chapel in Rochester.
The allegations made headlines across the area, and for some shed a negative light on funeral directors.
“Deservedly so,” said Anthony. The scandal "raised that question of doubt in every families mind when they go to a funeral home.”
Anthony says, he hopes that this new documentary will help show a more positive view of funeral homes.
“I hope by showing what we do and the care and sensitivity that goes into handling the bodies will show what the profession actually is,” said Anthony.
The show can be viewed online by visiting www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/undertaking/.
Tori Uthe can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 218, or at email@example.com.