of Dr. Steven L. Berg

The Undertaking

I took my class to see The Undertaking which is about poet Thomas Lynn’s family funeral business.  Produced by Frontline, it was a very good documentary that gave a nice view of contemporary funeral practices while following the lives of five families.  Students were very quiet during the video.  I think they both sensed the solemnity of what was being shown as well as were fascinated by being exposed to new information.

In the contemporary United States, we are kept away from the realities of death and the disposal of bodies.  I think that is too bad. To try to “protect” someone from the realities of death does not do them a service.

After the screening, I mentioned the historical importance concerning being reverent to dead bodies.  I cited an example from Monday’s class where we viewed excerpts from Troy.  After one battle, an emissary was sent to the Greeks to let them known that they would be able to collect their dead from the battlefield.  I also discussed Sky Burial and post mortem photography.

One of the issues that came up with this lesson is that death is an issue that is difficult for some students.  A couple of individuals wanted to be excused from watching the documentary and I agreed that they did not have to stay.  I have done this before when dealing with difficult topics.  While I do not mind pushing students or even, in some circumstances, making them feel uncomfortable, this is not the type of discomfort that I want them to feel.

Screening The Undertaking was done by Pageturners.

I specifically asked Ric not to electrocute my father today when they were replacing electrical outlets in the dining room.  When I got home, my father told me that, “Your friend tried to electrocute me.”  It seems that Ric had gone downstairs to turn off the fuse for the dining room and, instead, turned off the one above it.  My dad got a jolt, but it was not serious.


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