I’m finally reading Thomas Lynch’s book The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to read this important book. Still, I am now and glad for it. I hope to post again with other quotes from the book, but for now this:

There’s this “just a shell” theory of how we ought to related to dead bodies. … It is proffered as comfort in the teeth of what is a comfortless situation, consolation to the inconsolable. … I once saw an Episcopalian deacon nearly decked by the swift slap of the mother of a teenager, dead of leukemia, to whom he’d tendered this counsel. “I’ll tell you when it’s ‘just a shell,’ ” the woman said. “for now and until I tell you otherwise, she’s my daughter.” …

So to suggest in the early going of grief that the dead body is “just” anything rings as tinny in its attempt to minimalize as it would if we were to say it was “just” a bad hair day when the girl went bald from her chemotherapy. Or that our hope for heaven on her behalf was based on the belief that Christ raised “just” a body from dead. What if, rather than crucifixion, he’d opted for suffering low self-esteem for the remission of sins? What if, rather than “just a shell,” he’d raised his personality, say, or The Idea of Himself? Do you think they’d have changed the calendar for that? … Easter was a body and blood thing, no symbols, no euphemisms, no half measures. If he’d raised anything less, of course, as Paul points out, the deacon and several others of us would be out of business or back to Saturday sabbaths, a sensible diet, and no more Christmases.


P.S. Watch the PBS Frontline documentary on Lynch as well.


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