Letter from the Publisher

Posted by – January 17, 2019
Categories: General

Sometimes the collaboration between an author and publisher starts with the tiniest of seeds.

Such was the case with Lucinda Herring’s groundbreaking book, Reimagining Death: Stories and Practical Wisdom for Home Funerals and Green Burials. In June 2016 I read a social media post from a close friend of mine. I knew her mother had been very ill, and I was saddened to read that she had died. In her note, my friend talked about how she and her family had decided to have a home funeral for her mother, which felt more in line with her values than a typical ceremony. My friend linked to an article in Grist that validated their decision.

I have always been curious about more holistic, less antiseptic approaches to death, perhaps because I have been to so many funerals and so often noticed the ways these events feel oddly out-of-sync with the deceased person’s spirit. I distinctly remember the first funeral I ever attended as a young man: the event was so formal and so cold that I envisioned my friend rising from the casket and dancing around the room, wondering aloud why her community had dishonored the audacious way she had lived her life. “Did you forget who I am?” I imagined her shouting in defiance to the people assembled in the pews.

Not that there is anything wrong with traditional American funerals: I’ve just always wanted more from them. Same with traditional American burials: I fundamentally question a process that dumps huge financial costs on grieving families and toxic chemicals into the soil. And so it was with great interest that I clicked on my friend’s link and found an inspiring story about a family that had worked with a licensed funeral director in the state of Washington to create a beautiful home vigil and green burial for their father. Knowing that North Atlantic Books looks for authentic, pioneering practitioners in compelling disciplines and lineages, I quickly looked up the funeral director, Lucinda Herring, and dropped her a note asking if she might be interested in exploring a book project.

Her response brought goose bumps: “Life is so marvelous, really. I have had so many doubts of late about the wisdom of continuing to say ‘yes’ to this natural-death work. Today was one of those days—when the toll of abysmal pay and living on the edge, of putting my own art and writing on hold for years, in order to help others—all felt too much for me. Then, home and a quick glance at my Inbox—and there you are. ‘Exploring a book?’ I must confess I burst into tears.”

And so it was that Lucinda and North Atlantic Books embarked on the wild road of publishing a book together. Through hard work, transparent and frequent communication, and faith not only in each other but in the importance of providing alternative narratives and practices to how we do death, we were able to bring Reimagining Death to the world a full two and a half years later. I’ve put a copy in the mail to my friend so that she can see the tree that grew from the seed she blew to the wind.

Tags: Lucinda Herring

About the Author

Tim came to NAB in 2013 and is honored to serve as publisher. Born in New York City, McKee grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA from Princeton University and an MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. He has worked in the nonprofit sector for his entire career, including serving as the long-time managing editor of The Sun magazine, the grants director for a social-justice foundation in San Francisco, and as a writer for several community-based organizations in California. He has also taught college-level writing and journalism. His book No More Strangers Now: Young Voices from a New South Africa (Dorling Kindersley) was an Honor Book for the Jane Addams Book Award and a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He is happiest when bringing necessary stories to the page.