Joshua Graves
Exploring the Collision of Culture & Faith
The Thing We Never Name: Death
November 6, 2013

I know it’s a shocking claim . . . but . . . are you ready for this?

We all die. Death is coming. The minute you are born you start to die.

As I was formatting this post, a friend stopped by my office. This new friend spent a major part of his early adulthood in prison for shooting a classmate. Having come so close to death (of another, of his own, death’s power in prison systems) — life was more sacred and precious. And this is the point. The more aware you are of your own death, Your own journey towards death, the more life matters now.

“It’s really all about how you go,” says one sage.

All of us. We don’t stay dead. That is,  if you are a Muslim, Christian, Baha’i, or Jew–you believe in some kind of after life. (If you are interested in that particular conversation, my good friend Jonathan has done an extensive teaching series on this from a Christian perspective). I think Jonathan’s right by the way.

It’s important to think about your death. You know, because it implicates all us, this thing we work so hard to avoid.

Fun exercise. What elements do you want in your funeral? What do you want it look like? Feel like? Sound like? In no partiuclar order . . .

*Lots of U2 music (preferably from Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum).

*Lots of choir/black soul music. Like this.

*Oh. Definitely this song.

*Love song written and performed by me for Kara. Did I mention said love song would be epic, life-changing? Stay tuned.

*Stories/snapshots from family, loved ones, and friends (key mentors, college basketball coach, siblings, college teammates, church community, fellow preachers). I’m not gonna lie, I’d be a little nervous about the stories my college teammates might share.

* A sermon by Randy Harris (if he’s alive). If not, Jonathan Storment and Josh Ross can do 15 minutes each (would be harder for Jonathan to pull off than Josh).

*Don’t know where this fits in, but definitely this from Allison Crowe. Hallelujah.

*A little ZOE WORSHIP (with choir) to transition.

*Maya Angelou reads from Revelation 21-22.

*Finale: Bob Marley’s Redemption Song (everyone has to sing).

What would your funeral/celebration look like? What would it sound like? Be creative. Someone might actually remember this when the time comes. Deal with this:

When you haven’t yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn’t about death and rebirth. It’s about life and more life. It’s about hope and possibility of a brighter future. And it is, certainly, about those things. But when you’ve faced some kind of death– the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship– that’s when you start understanding the central metaphor. When your life is easy, a lot of theories, but you don’t really need them. When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you. –Shauna Niequist

NOTE: If you think this is morbid or depressing . . . go ahead let someone else plan your funeral. Not me. No way. I’m a control freak.

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I love the quote from Shauna Niequist!

by Rick Ross (Nov 6 2013, 9:14 pm)

Me too Rick. There’s an entire story behind that quote. For another day. Love you!

by joshuagraves (Nov 6 2013, 9:35 pm)

Thank you for sharing this. The avoidance of death comes up a lot in counseling circles and I love how Irvin Yalom captured the importance of the idea (he writes from an atheistic vantage point, but translating this to the Christian Story is not too difficult):

“Though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death may save us.”

Thank you again for your posts, they help with my desire and effort to live deeply.

by Adam Graham (Nov 11 2013, 5:36 pm)


by joshuagraves (Nov 11 2013, 6:52 pm)


Last year Carrie B. and I were interviewed for the Tennessean regarding planning our funeral because of a post Carrie posted on FB. I too have my funeral planned out and make changes every once and awhile.

Along those notes…I want to be cremated and my wife wants to be buried so the joke/plan is to have my ashes turned into a diamond that she will wear when she is buried.

by David (Nov 18 2013, 11:20 am)

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