Don't leave a mess. Call Triple S!

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1603
  1. Thomas Lynch, funeral director, writer (
  1. a 328 East Liberty, Milford, MI 48381, USA

    This extract is from “Uncle Eddie, Inc” in “The Undertaking—Life Studies from the Dismal Trade,” a collection of essays by Thomas Lynch which will be published by Jonathan Cape in April. Lynch, the author of two books of poems, most recently “Grimalkin and Other Poems,” operates a funeral home in Milford, Michigan.

    Uncle Eddie needed an 800 number. His sideline in the suicide cleanup trade was going gangbusters. He needed a separate phone line, a logo, a slogan, and magnetic business cards. I was touched that he would come to me, his much older brother, for advice.

    “Whadaya think about 1–800-SUICIDE? Too morbid? Too direct? Or 1–800-Triple S? You know. For Specialised Sanitation Services?”

    In his heart of hearts he had hopes that Triple S—for Specialised Sanitation Services—would become as widely recognised as Triple A had for Automobile Association of America, or WWW had for the Worldwide Web, or Triple X had for a style of cinema that Uncle Eddie said excited his passion for First Amendment Rights. Though perhaps his services were a little too specialised—known only to local and state law enforcement agencies and county medical examiners and funeral homes and needed only by the families and landlords of the messy dead.

    Indoor suicides, homicides, household accidents, or natural deaths undetected in a timely fashion—these were the exceptional cases that often required the Specialised Sanitation Services that Uncle Eddie and his staff at Triple S—his wife, his golfing buddy, and his golfing buddy's wife—stood ever ready to provide for reasonable fees, most often covered by homeowners' insurance.

    “Maybe you should just play whatever numbers come up Ed.” I counselled. “Maybe ask for something that ends in zeros.”

    At this Uncle Eddie's visage changed—adopting the distant and bedazzled gape of the ancient Mayan perplexed by the delicate mysteries of …

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