He told stories of his work as an undertaker, how he stood with families during powerful moments of grief, loss, and final farewells.
He spoke of how our culture needs to value and care for people at the end of life as much as we value and care for people at the beginning of life.
And he suggested that writers have an important role similar to that of the undertaker: to witness and keep track.
As writers, we can walk through life attentively, making connections, taking note of sensory details, watching for what sets one moment apart from all others, and identifying changes we observe. We can be the ones to take it all down so it doesn’t fade away unnoticed, unnoted.
If we show up—if we have eyes to see—we can do that work: We can bear witness. We can keep track.
Witness and keep track. That’s the basic work of writers.
— Thomas Lynch, writer, poet, undertaker
Source: Thomas Lynch said this in a speech given at the 2012 Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
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