Marjorie Kunch is a funeral director, and writer, based in Arizona. When her grandmother died, Kunch, the mother of two young children, searched for books to answer the questions her two young children had about funeral rituals. Not able to find what she was looking for, Kunch decided to write her own book. Written from the perspective of her Slavic Orthodox faith, When My Baba Died was published in 2015, and a companion workbook soon followed. In 2017, Kunch published a Greek Orthodox version titled, When My Yiayia Died. Both books are tenderly illustrated, with Kunch’s children serving as models. In a piece I wrote for American Funeral Director’s December issue about Kunch’s works, I noted that the Worsham College of Mortuary Science graduate “aims to demystify death, funerals and cancer, events that are often kept hidden from children.” For more information, here’s a recent review on Goodreads.
In addition to this site, Melissa and I host a Facebook page for The Morte Girls. This group was created as a place for serious funeral directors to come together to discuss issues with colleagues. We invited some of the best licensed funeral directors we knew, intentionally keeping the group small and manageable to avoid what so many of the other Facebook funeral director groups have become: a place for the morbidly curious. Recently, a young woman requested to join. She claimed to have attended a mortuary school, but it was unclear whether or not she had ever become licensed (one can only hope not). Among her likes: death, murder, horror movies, and snakes. Just one more in a string of inappropriate requests from those looking for the “creep factor.”
Unfortunately, we see these types all over social media these days. Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter are littered with those who believe funeral service is a 24/7 Gothfest. They enroll in mortuary schools around the country for their chance to be near the dead, despite the fact that funeral service is mainly about working with the living.
Each and every time the Press reinforces the “creep factor” with their sensational coverage of those on the fringe, the conversations seem to grow more inane. A recent Instagram post had a young mother asking whether or not a tee shirt with the words “future corpse” came in a onesie for her newborn baby. Just days later, I was bringing a colleague (who eschews social media) up to speed, and mentioned the tee shirt. She told me how she had handled the funeral of a newborn baby who had a surviving twin. “Just think, ” she said, shaking her head with disgust, “about how amusing the mother of that baby, having lost one child already, would find this tee shirt.”
In the month of March, the funerals of two New York firefighters took place just days apart. Michael Davidson, 37, lost his life while battling a blaze in a NYC apartment building. Lt. Christopher Raguso was killed in a helicopter accident in Iraq, one day after his 39th birthday. As I read about, and watched the coverage of the funerals of both men, I could not help but think that there could be no better example of why funerals serve a vital purpose. The naysayers may believe that funerals don’t matter, but by all accounts they mattered a great deal to not only the family and friends of these brave men, but to their colleagues and the community at large. Although hearts were heavy, there was no mistaking how the comforting funeral rituals brought together and enveloped mourners. We would all do well to take a lesson from such public funerals before we go believing the media hype about the demise of funeral service.
FDNY’s Michael Davidson Lt. Christopher Raguso
This picture and tweet appeared on Loyola Coach Porter Moser:
“So many unbelievable images from this journey. Been in & will share later . This 1 touched my. My brother Mitch sent this. My parents gravesite in Naperville. YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE BECAUSE OF YOUR PARENTS! I am here today because of them! I know they are with me !”
We visit graves to pay respect and honor those who we have lost.
Melissa Johnson Williams and Alexandra Kathryn Mosca are two well-known and respected names in funeral service.
In this recent article I wrote for Next Avenue, three seasoned, and respected, NYC funeral directors shared their thoughts and experiences with me. They were hard to hear, and even harder to write about, but such is the reality in these dark days. Funeral directors are doing all they can, against overwhelming circumstances, to lay the dead to rest with dignity and respect.