Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Death Thoughts

The culture surrounding death has changed for me. Maybe it's the move from Minnesota, with the strong Scandanavian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic culture where formal rituals were practiced with somber duty to the more informal, laid-back "warmer" culture of California, where everyone stays young as long as possible and conversations and images of death are avoided. Maybe it's also a culture morph that has more to do with these times than a region of the country. I don't know. What I do know is that dying is different our here than back there. Oh, the dead are just as dead. It's just that we go about it differently.
As a pastor, one of the chief responsibilities is to identify with and understand the culture in which you serve. There was a cultural difference between rural Indiana and industrial Muskegon and large city, high-tech Minneapolis. But all were clustered in the same midwestern environment. I'm far from done enjoying examining the way life works here in California. But an article by Thomas G. Long in last Sunday's New York Times (another culture altogether!) reflected on the way we bury our dead and the way we care for our living. Take a look.


At 5:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:05 AM , Blogger Isaac Johnson said...

Good article; thanks for the link.

Though I don't know if I agree with his conclusion that its better to go back to carrying the dead by hand to their final place. It's the "times were better" nostalgia that doesn't fit with the good arguments laid out in the rest of the article.

My conclusion is that "reverence" needs to be re-injected. That while anecdotes and stories help the living move on and let us put a smile on in a time of grief, they don't bear proper respect.

That said, I found the small act of carrying the casket with my cousins recently to be far more powerful than anything else and perhaps that reverence; that sense of loss; was distilled into that short but distinct palatable moment of a mere 20 steps.


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