AMY CUNNINGHAM is a New-York-City-based funeral director, death educator and celebrant with a passion for helping Brooklyn and Manhattan families arrange dignified, distinctive funeral and memorial services. She is the owner of a new funeral establishment called Fitting Tribute Funeral Services, which officially launched in January, 2016. In January 2015, Amy was listed as one of the “Nine Most Innovative Funeral Professionals” in the country by FuneralOne, a leading voice for change in the funeral industry. Amy was trained as a funeral celebrant by Glenda Stansbury and Doug Manning, completed all three levels of home vigil training with Jerrigrace Lyons, was exposed to Jewish Tahara ritual through a four-day workshop with Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips, and completed an end-of-life doula training with social worker Henry Fersko-Weiss at the Open Center where she is now on the faculty of the Integrative Thanatology certificate program. In her prior life, Amy majored in English Literature at the University of Virginia, and was a magazine writer and blogger with essays and articles published in More, Glamour, Redbook, McCall’s, and Washington Post magazine. For two years, she wrote a blog on healthy living, holistic spirituality, yoga and meditation for the award-winning website Beliefnet.com. She resumed her blogging not long after mortuary school and now sustains one blog for customers, and “The Inspired Funeral” for her friends and colleagues in the funeral trade. She lectures on funeral planning and the greening of the funeral business at the Park Slope Food Coop every six weeks. Married to journalist Steven Waldman for twenty-four years, she has one son who recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin and another at Emory studying psychology and neuroscience.
Thursday, April 27th, 5-7 p.m., Lecture on “The Future of the Funeral,” Green-Wood Cemetery’s crematory chapel, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, 11232. 718-768-7300. Funerals may be as old as mankind, but they have continually evolved to meet the needs (and demands) of a changing world. Join Amy to explore everything from home funeral options and simple cremation services to green and environmental friendly burials, alkaline hydrolysis and Promession (freeze drying). She will provide insight to answering common questions: what if my partner is of a different faith tradition or cultural background? What direction can I give to florists, musicians, and celebrants? Is it possible to host my own funeral before I go? Can I really become a tree? In the course of this hour, you’ll get a glimmer of the future of the funeral—and you’ll leave with comforting ideas and inspiration for yourself or for someone you love.
Tuesday May 9, 6PM – 8PM, Death Cafe, Green-Wood Cemetery’s crematory chapel, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, 11232. 718-768-7300. Green-Wood Cemetery now hosts monthly Death Cafes facilitated by Amy. Over coffee and sweet treats, each meeting invites strangers to share with one another their thoughts, feelings, and outlook on death. Each gathering offer the opportunity for safe and open exchanges without an agenda. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counseling session. Started in 2011, Death Cafés were the brainchild of Jon Underwood and have quickly spread to over 40 countries. Underwood’s intention was to allow those gathered the opportunity to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.
Thursday, May 18th, 5-7 p.m., Cremation: History and Modern Process, Green-Wood Cemetery’s crematory chapel, 500 25th Street, Brooklyn, 11232. 718 768-7300. What is cremation? How long have we been doing it, and how does it work? Amy leads this tour of cremation’s history (from its origins 32 thousand years ago in Australia!) and its impact on the present and future of funerals. This engaging and sometimes jolly journey will also explore how to choose an end-of-life mode of disposition that expresses your own beliefs and values. Afterward, you will have the opportunity to visit the crematory with Gema LaBoccetta, Green-Wood’s Crematory Manager, as well as enjoy discussion and questions at a short reception.
Friday-Monday, October 13-16, 2017, join Amy and a fleet of innovators in the field of death and dying, in palliative and hospice care–doctors, nurses, hospice workers, therapists, bereavement counselors, social workers, chaplains, and death educators–for the New York Open Center’s four-day-long “Art of Dying” Symposium, which considers the following topics: How can we work more compassionately and intelligently with the dying? How can our own death and the death of those we love be faced with courage and awareness? Does consciousness survive death and, if so what might we expect? How can we best prepare? How can death become much less frightening both for ourselves and our loved ones? The Association of Death Education and Counseling ® has deemed this program as counting towards the continuing education requirements for the ADEC Certification in Thanatology. Phone (212) 219-2527 ext. 135 to learn more and register for all or some of the great offerings.
Fears of Death Discussed Over Cookies, The Gothamist, February 2017.
Eight Things Funeral Directors Want You to Know, Gail Rubin, January 2017
“Death is the New Black,” a conversation with StoryKeep‘s Jamie Yuenger, September 2015.
“The Nine Most Innovative Funeral Professionals,” Funeral One Blog, January 2015.
Tips on Cultivating a Good Relationship with Your Funeral Director, Seven Ponds Blog, 2014.
Rewiring the Way We Look at Death, RewireMe.com, July 2014.
“The Rise of Back-to-Basics Funerals,” NYTimes Styles Section March 2014.
“On Point,” NPR’s Jessica Yellin interviews Amy, April 2014.
From Magazines to End-of-life Celebrations, May 2013.
“Entrepreneurs Find a Growing Business in Eco-Friendly Burials,” Inc. Magazine, April 2014.
“The Greenest Things to Do with Your Body After You Die,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2013.
Morphing from Journalist to Funeral Director, June 2012.
BlogTalk Radio guest appearance with Audrey Pellicano, September 2013.