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Death


Departed to the Judgment: A Life Between Two Worlds

Are we in purgatory? The screaming sea of media and humans and texts and creations are overwhelming until they are not. And then, sometimes, you find yourself alone, but not alone. The noise is gone, but you are fully engaged in it. In a car, in bed, in the dark, in silence, these things simply […]

The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living: Reflections for Ash Wednesday

James Parker wrote a delightful, 500-word gem in this month’s Atlantic entitled Ode to Middle Age. If you only have ten minutes to spare, skip the commentary and just read the whole thing here right now. Not only is it a refreshing tribute to one’s aging experience — you don’t have to be middle-aged to […]

Death and Life Under the Mark of Cain

We, the heirs to the devastating dysfunction that was the twentieth century, clamor to hold on to life at all costs. We fear death above all else: it is the emblem summating all our lesser fears. The myriad anxieties which splinter and spoil our experience find their terminus in that most ancient enemy. We are […]

If Jesus Paid It All, What’s With All the Ashes?

This year’s Ash Wednesday sermon comes to us from Jason Micheli: Whenever I do a wedding rehearsal, I like to quash the unhelpful romanticism of the moment by pointing out to the bridal party that the ancient Church stole the outline of the marriage service from the Roman ceremony for the transferal of property. Who […]

Sitting Shiva for Kobe: On the Complicated Nature of Grief, and Humans

If there’s anything the movie This Is Where I Leave You taught me — besides that Tina Fey should not do accents — it’s about shiva, the Jewish tradition in response to the death of an immediate family member. I’d heard of shiva before but for the first time saw it dramatized in the film, […]

The Body and the Coffin

This one comes to us from Kurt Armstrong. A few years ago I built a coffin for my father-in-law Walter. I made it with oak plywood, the oak a nice veneer, the plywood strong and stable so it wouldn’t warp or twist or cup. I built it, stained it, and varnished it, and I kept […]

Because It Rains: Why Kobe Bryant’s Death Hit So Hard & Wide

The following was written by Isabella Yosuico. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45) Why has a death like that of Kobe Bryant—and his daughter and companions—hit so many so very hard? Even non-basketball fans have been […]

When Atheists Have More Faith Than You Do

Harold Braswell grew up a nice atheist Jew. Then, he researched hospices, and he started to ponder Jesus. The hospice he studied was Our Lady of Help in Atlanta, a free Roman Catholic facility for those who are dying but can’t care for themselves at home. The Dominican nuns there offer extraordinary service, and the […]

When Christmas Looks Like Easter: Reflections from the First 72 Hours of Processing Grief

On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth… – Isaiah 25:7-8 No one’s ever really gone – Luke Skywalker On Christmas Eve, my Dad slipped into a […]

Gravy: A Prayer for You at Year’s End

I preached a funeral for a friend a few weeks back — ironically, a day before Thanksgiving. I was under strict instructions not to speak the name of the disease that had ended her earthly life (hint: it starts with “c”; a six-letter word that acts more like a four-letter word). I couldn’t ignore that word’s presence altogether, since it had surely been a contributing writer on the screenplay of her life. But I never uttered the word and did my best to give Jesus top billing.

Raymond Carver managed to accomplish something similar in one of his final poems, “Gravy.” He looked back over the last sober decade – the love he experienced from Tess Gallagher, the vital work of writing and teaching and living. It is a mere 125 words. And not to nag you like your 10th grade English teacher or anything, but I do believe it would reward the time you spend reading it:

“Gravy” by Raymond Carver

No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.

May I pray this prayer for us?

Lord Jesus, another year is gone, and only you know what awaits us. For those things we fear are “building up” and “breaking down,” we pray for healing and endurance in the days to come. And as we reflect on 2019, Lord, focus our minds on the gravy — the moments we weren’t promised, the work that kept us “alive,” the remarkable disasters we mysteriously avoided, and most importantly, the grace that raised us up when we were “going nowhere but down.”

Gravy. Pure gravy. Please pass the gravy. Amen.

A Grave Hope

And if life is a miraculous opening, why cannot death be a miraculous opening also? — Brian Doyle 1 In Acts 7:16, readers are told that the bodies of Jacob and his twelve sons were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the […]

The Holidays Are Upon Us!

This one comes to us from Jesse Pirschel. The holidays are upon us! When I say “upon us,” I mean it in the same sense as “the Philistines are upon us!” The Thanksgiving feast has just wound down and people are busily replacing their faux fall foliage with evergreens and twinkling lights. Ready or not, […]