Tag Archives: Burial

Chapter-a-Day Hebrews 9

Mi Funeral 2

And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27 (NLT)

We are all going to die.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer on a Friday morning, but it’s true. You and I are both going to die. Our ticket’s getting punched. Our number will come up. The sand is running out in the hourglass.

The physical death of our body is a certain reality that most of us like to avoid thinking about. Many years ago I spent a few years as a pastor. I befriended the director of the local funeral home and told him that if ever he ran into a family who had no particular faith background and didn’t have anyone to conduct a funeral, to give me a call. The phone rang regularly. I did a lot of funerals.

It’s always interesting to observe people when there’s a dead body in the room. Conversation is typically hushed and somewhat awkward. You see a lot of glassy stares. There’s a lot of people looking at the floor. There’s a lot of sadness. There’s also a lot of confusion and anxiety and denial. But, I never found that such a bad thing.

Facing the hard facts of autumn cause us to prepare for a long winter in anticipation of the following spring. Facing the hard facts of death cause us to prepare for the judgment that awaits each one of us in anticipation of the eternity beyond.

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 34

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No one knows [Moses’] burial site to this very day.” Deuteronomy 34:6 (MSG)

In a graveyard in France is the burial plot of Jim Morrison, the charismatic, drug addicted lead singer of The Doors. When my friends travelled abroad in college, it was a favorite tourist spot. I would get pictures sent in letters of the gravesite covered with graffitti. Songs have been written about it. I’ve heard countless stories of people going to join the groups who continually sit arond the grave, hold vigil, and party to memorialize the poet and musician.

I compare that to the childhood memory of going to the cemetery before each Memorial Day with my mother and grandmother. We’d place flowers on the graves of great-grandma Daisy and my grandmother’s sister, who died at a relatively early age. When my daughter’s were small, they accompanied my mother as she continued the tradition of visiting the graves of family and placing flowers there as a Memorial.

Throughout the journey I have presided over many funerals from strangers to loved ones. I’ve watched many different ways that people handle the death of the body, how families respond to that death, and how the dead are remembered and memorialized. It’s prompted me to think about my own death and how I would like to be remembered.

While I fully understand the tradition of visiting graves and memorializing the dead, I have come to prefer the idea of cremation and the scattering of ashes in a special place. The truth of the matter is that when this journey is over and my body breathes its last, my spirit will arrive at my eternal home in heaven with Christ. My wayfaring sojourn will complete. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I don’t want loved ones visiting the burial place of my body only to have it subtly reiterate a message of death, burial, and grief. I would rather have family and loved ones gather at one of their homes to feaest on a good meal, drink good wine, share good memories, and raise their glasses to toast those memories, laugh together, and celebrate my eternal homecoming.

Reading today’s chapter, I was glad that Moses’ burial site was lost and forgotten.  I can only imagine the gaudy religious spectacle it would have become by now. Because it is forgotten, the story of Moses can live in my mind free from the struggle of idolization that occurs when burial plots become religious shrines.

Chapter-a-Day Romans 8

The embalming process includes the use of spec...
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So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. Romans 8:12-15 (MSG)

I often glance back over my shoulder to view the road behind me. Not to dwell, for there’s no value in dwelling on what can’t be undone. A quick glance, however, reminds me of lessons learned and short cuts gone awry that made for long, painful delays. I need the occasional perspective. It helps me gauge my current position, and often provides wisdom for choosing my next steps.

Today, as I read, I glanced back and remembered long stretches of time tending to things dead. It’s tragic how we try to breathe life into a rotting corpse; how we hoist a decomposing cadaver onto our back and carry it around with us. We can’t really go anywhere, because the weight and responsibility of a dead man around our neck. You can’t really travel with the dead man. He requires constant tending. It takes a lot of time and energy to hide the stench. And, sometimes you just have to keep him out of sight. So, pulling him in and out of the closet requires that you stick pretty close to the closet.

Tending the dead and the grave pretty much robs you of the opportunity to travel.

Lord, I’ll follow you. But first, let me bury…”

Follow me,” Jesus said,  “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

I glance back at a lesson learned in time. When I finally walk away from the corpse and the grave tending that goes with it, all sorts of new places and possibilities open up on the horizon. With the burden lifted and clean, crisp wind of fresh air filling my lungs, I become giddy with child-like anticipation. “What’s next, Papa?” I asked God.

“Walk with me,” He said with a smile and a wink as He pulled out a tattered, well-worn copy of a Dr. Seuss’ book from His coat. He reads as we walk away from the grave:

Kid, you’ll move mountains!
So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

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