Michelle Carter, one of our “Be Our Guest” contributors just responded to the article, Don Shell Shares “A Monumental ‘Undertaking’?” by another one of our contributors.  Here’s her response:


With all due respect, Mr. Shell, I think you may have misunderstood Mr. Lynch.

Yes, he rails against personalization, but that’s because so many funeral directors sell personalization like a commodity instead of making something personal. For example, my dad is a golfer. I can personalize his funeral by getting a casket with golf-themed corners. Or, I can make it personal by having his golfing buddies act as pall bearers. Which is more meaningful?

And I have to say I agree with Mr. Lynch that there is great value in allowing families to have the comfort of a ritual they’re familiar with at a difficult time. And they did show at least one direct cremation, so obviously not everyone followed the ritual Mr. Lynch likes so much.

If you watched any of the additional footage, or read the viewer comments on the PBS website, you’ll see many of the families talked about how comforted they were seeing their loved ones looking so peaceful and beautiful. I doubt anyone could say that Mrs. Verrino’s eulogy wasn’t heartfelt, meaningful, or healing. And I don’t think anyone expressed displeasure at how things were handled.

The fact is, that documentary only showed short glimpses of the visitations and funerals, so we really don’t have any idea how much of a family’s story was or was not told.

I think the important thing, for us as funeral directors, is to make sure that we are able to do whatever the family wishes. A family’s story should be able to be told regardless of whether the family chooses a full-service burial, a direct cremation, or a reception at a local restaurant.

Yes, more and more people are choosing non-traditional services, and we need to meet those needs. But we’re only harming ourselves if we disregard or rail against those families that want the traditional services they’re accustomed to.


A licensed funeral director, Michelle Carter is also a funeral consultant and grief counselor from Westchester County, New York.

Through her company, New York Center for Transition, she provides counseling for those who have recently been diagnosed with diseases, grief counseling for those who have experienced a death and funeral consulting to families in need.Michelle is working toward opening her own funeral home.