Joshua Graves
Exploring the Collision of Culture & Faith
Waking Up to Death #5: Plan Your Funeral Today
January 9, 2014

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. (This is a five part series, see previous four posts)

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. “You needed to plant a tree 20 years ago. If not then, today is the next best option,” says another.

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. Also, Mike Cope did a fantastic series on death, grief, losing a child (it’s sacred space).

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 particular 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). Definitely have to include some of Coach Garth Pleasant’s great stories in this gathering too.

*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).

*Last but not least, my twin brother, Jason, offers the benediction.

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. I want to know for sure that a party is going down in my name, in my honor . . . I mean, in Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ honor.


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Hello Josh, I enjoy reading some of your posts, so thank you for sharing your thoughts/reflections with the world.

Personally, I think planning my own funeral would be boring and narcissistic. Why not allow your loved ones (family and friends) to be creative in planning the funeral. I find it a bit strange that in the end we still want control on how things play out.

I’m reminded of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where the rich man while in hades still expects Lazarus to serve him, “…send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue…” The rich man continued to be narcissistic and controlling (of course this is part of his delusion and hell). Again, I find it strange that even after we’re dead we still want some control of what happens.

It maybe, that planning your own funeral is our way of trying to avoid death. Or it could be a way in which we embrace it. However, it still seems to me to be a bit controlling and narcissistic in planning our own funerals.

by Jeremy (Jan 30 2014, 11:00 am)

Jeremy. Thanks for writing. I think you missed the entire point of the exercise. The point was the opposite of narcissism. The point was the humility of dealing with your own mortality. Something sorely lacking in our culture. And I think such usage of the parable in Luke is interesting but a stretch. Thanks for writing and sharing. I will think more on this.

by Josh Graves (Jan 30 2014, 12:33 pm)

PS. The last few paragraphs were satirical.

by Josh Graves (Jan 30 2014, 12:36 pm)

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  1. […] a theology for the funeral, so I’ll refrain from chasing other paths. If you didn’t see THIS POST, I think it’s beneficial to plan your funeral ahead of […]

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