“When I’m gone just cremate me,” Hughey MacSwiggan told his third and final wife as she stood at his bedside while the hospice nurse fiddled with the morphine drip that hadn’t kept his pain at bay. The operative word in his directive was just. He wasn’t especially fond of fire. He hadn’t picked out a…

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‘The dead don’t care and I don’t either’ Mon, Apr 05, 2010 Thomas Lynch creates intimate character studies on the big themes of life – and death – but always with wisdom and sharp humour, writes SHANE HEGARTY TO START with death is the ultimate cliche of any Thomas Lynch interview. The funeral director and writer…

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“Preaching to bishops,” a long-dead churchman told me years ago, “is like farting at skunks. You’ll win some battles, but lose the war.” All the more so, no doubt, the higher you go. His Holiness, Their Eminences and Excellencies—“Don’t cross ’em,” the curate cautioned; “those boyos aren’t to be tampered with.” Among the blessings of…

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When I was a child I spoke as a child, understood as a child, reasoned as a child. I knew my parents loved me best and assumed my several siblings all agreed. I mistook abundant love for especial favor and blessings for entitlements, and I took pride in things I ought to have been simply…

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Utne Reader from Willow Springs It’s hard to imagine two more circuitous paths to renown than the vocations of writer and undertaker, yet Thomas Lynch has somehow staked a successful career on both routes. In fact, his workaday pursuits feed on each other. His experiences as a small-town funeral director in Michigan fuel books that…

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The pumpkins, penny candy and neighborly hordes of goblins and ghosts shouting “Trick or treat!” remind us of the ancients and their belief that the souls of the dead must be appeased. But it’s the days that follow Halloween that most interest me. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are time set aside to…

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Jake, for the record, life does go on. Tuesday gives way to Wednesday unremarkably. The stars in their firmament behave like stars. The morning traffic makes its mindless way from one preoccupation to another. Little changes. You knew as much yourself: we have our day, and others after us into their sparkling moment and out…

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THE University of Michigan had a chance to shine at the end of February when our symphony orchestra toured by bus from Ann Arbor to Carnegie Hall. The musicians made stops at Oberlin and Cornell before getting to West 57th Street. Kenneth Kiesler, our maestro, selected Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and a new composition by a…

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“DEMOCRACY is untidy,” said Donald Rumsfeld. “It sure is,” we Michiganders nod, watching our state legislators navigate fecklessly between tax increases and budget cuts trying to keep Lansing’s ship of state afloat. The autumn has been spent under the threat of a government shutdown over the state budget imbroglio. The big solution: a “service tax”…

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The men I have coffee with most mornings in town are all in what we never call the last trimester of our lives. We’re winding down, golfing more, worried that what’s ahead won’t be as good as what’s gone before. We are retiring or retirees. Our memories are more certain than our prospects. Some things,…

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