meet licensed funeral DIRECTOR Amy cunningham
Amy Cunningham is a licensed funeral director and celebrant who collaborates with New York City families to help them create the best funerals and memorial services possible. She specializes in green burials in cemeteries certified by the Green Burial Council, simple burials within the NYC- Metropolitan area, home funerals, and cremation services at Green-Wood Cemetery's gorgeous crematory chapels. Filled with kind advice on how to make funerals more affordable and sustainable, Amy was profiled by the New York Times, March 2014, and named one of nine top funeral innovators by FuneralOne, a leading voice for change in the funeral industry. Fortified by her mortuary training from the American Academy McAllister Institute, and a BA in English Literature from the University of Virginia, Amy was trained as a funeral celebrant by Glenda Stansbury and Doug Manning, certified as a home funeral guide by Jerrigrace Lyons and Olivia Bareham, and exposed to Jewish Tahara ritual through the teachings of Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips. She then took end-of-life doula training with Henry Fersko-Weiss (twice!) at the Open Center where she is now also on the faculty of the Integrative Thanatology death education counselor program. When not out directing funerals today, she sustains a blog on this site called "Creative Ways to Approach the Inevitable" tailored to the needs of funeral consumers. Amy also writes a blog called "The Inspired Funeral" for the consumers, clergy, home funeral guides, celebrants and bereavement therapists working to plan or help orchestrate enriched end-of-life experiences. She has been married to journalist Steven Waldman for twenty-four years. One son just graduated from the University of Wisconsin and the other is at Emory studying psychology and neuroscience.
UPCOMING WORKSHOPS AND CONVERSATIONS
Tuesday, January 9, February 13, 2018, 6:30-8 p.m., Death Cafe, Green-Wood Cemetery's crematory chapel, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, 11232. 718-768-7300. Green-Wood Cemetery now hosts monthly Death Cafes. Join us for coffee and sweet treats, as fellow wayfaring strangers share their thoughts, feelings, and outlook on dying and death. Each meeting offers the opportunity for safe and open exchange without an agenda. This is surprisingly enjoyable, believe it or not. All are welcomed.
NEW! Tuesdays, January 17, 24, 31 and February 7, 2018: Amy teaches "Funeral Planning as Spiritual Practice," One Spirit Learning Alliance, 247 W 36th St 6th Floor, New York, NY 10018, (212) 931-6840. Spiritual traditions all over the world agree that death awareness makes life more meaningful. Sadly, we live in a death phobic society, and people who postpone funeral discussions are then confronted with decisions involving thousands of dollars as they hold Kleenex in their hands. Join journalist/NY licensed funeral director and celebrant Amy Cunningham in an eye-opening, four-week-long exploration of the fascinating trends within and without the $14 billion funeral business. To help us solidify our own final wishes, we'll watch relevant films and learn through Powerpoint presentations, group exercises, individual funeral stories, and conversation. Among the many topics we'll survey: basic funeral customs in Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, the history of cremation and burial (did you know that the rejection of Pagan custom in the final years of the Roman Empire lead to a Judeo-Christian tradition of burial that lasted 1500 years?) and how to make a cremation service more meaningful; we'll discuss the comeback of the home funeral (keeping the dead cool in the house for days or hours helps some people adjust to the new reality); the resurgence of shrouding, the rise of the green burial movement, and advocacy work now occurring to give families greater control over the care of their dead.
Saturday January 13 and February 24, 3:30-5:15 p.m., History of Cremation talk and Green-Wood crematory tour. What is cremation? How long have we been doing it, and how does it work? Is it the right choice for you or your family? Amy leads this tour of cremation’s history and its impact on the present and future of funerals. You’ll learn about the earliest known cremation in Australia 32 thousand years ago, the pagan cremations in ancient Rome, and how Judaism’s consistent objection to cremation led to 1,500 years of Christian burial. Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Madame Helena Blavatsky, Jessica Mitford, Ann Landers and Reverend Billy Graham will all make appearances in this engaging, sometimes jolly talk. You’ll also learn how to choose an end-of-life mode of disposition that expresses your own beliefs and values. After the talk, you will tour Green-Wood’s crematory with a member of the crematory staff, and enjoy the chance for discussions and questions at a short reception.