Thinking Out Loud

November 14, 2016

Life’s Bookends

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:18 am

Two weeks ago we found ourselves spending an hour sitting in the living room of a Muslim couple enjoying coffee and biscuits. That’s a story for another day, but in the course of the conversation I mentioned that we had toured their local mosque as part of Toronto’s “Doors Open” days. This is an annual event where a variety of buildings not normally accessed by the general public throw open their facilities for tours.

ghusl-roomWhat I found unusual was that our tour guide decided to begin with mosque’s morgue. Let me explain. From what we could gather, Islamic funerals — at this mosque anyway — are handled from beginning to end from within the mosque. There are precise rituals for washing the body, and the funeral is carried out as quickly as possible. You can read more at Wikipedia, though it didn’t mention the facility issue, neither did this page.

I mentioned this to our host and he suggested something to the effect that if you can see that you are going to die (or if you reminded of your mortality) there are a number of immoral things (murder, violence, crime in general) you won’t do.


Of course, our life is bookended by our birth — which modern society captures in an avalanche of photographs — and our death. We live in the hyphen that will connect our birth and death dates in our memorial notice or on our tombstone. But the final date hasn’t happened yet. Only one of the bookends of our lives is present to us.

ghusl-room-2Does an increased consciousness of our mortality affect our morality? It would be interesting to see the data on that one. For example, what is the crime rate among people who work in mortuaries?  It’s probably too skewed a sample to produce meaningful data. What about palliative care? Does serving in that department tend to attract people who already have a spiritual bent?

An awareness of death is certainly a key element to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes. A philosophical treatise of that nature cannot help but awaken us to the frailty of life, the idea also found in Psalm 139 that our days are measured; our number of years is finite.

But our present society chooses to live as if death will never happen. We do everything we can to prolong life and avoid our demise at all costs.

Does that reflect itself in our moral condition?

The springboard for today’s thoughts were an article Lorne Anderson posted earlier today.

Images like the ones used today — which approximates well what we saw in Toronto that day — can be found in an image search for the term, Ghusl Room.

Starting the tour with this room is like starting a church plant with a one-year series on the book of Leviticus. (Rob Bell reference.) Not exactly seeker-friendly. Or is it?

October 18, 2016

Post Bereavement Recovery

Filed under: Christianity, family — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:48 pm

It’s amazing to think how long we’ve been running on adrenaline. I don’t recommend it.

Between all the stress leading up to my mother’s departure from this world to eternity, and then having to move her out of the long-term care facility within 24 hours (and taking an hour to help our son move the next day), and then planning her funeral (and having to attend another funeral out of town) today is the first day I’ve been able to slow down.

Even so, getting there hasn’t been easy. We drove back from the funeral in a horrendous rain storm. I realized that I needed to let Ruth drive. It wasn’t that my eyelids were getting droopy, it was more a case of I thought I might just instantly go to sleep. The dark, dark clouds were just adding to the stress of the drive.

So we stopped on an off-ramp and switched drivers. Several times I asked her if we should stop. “Not as long as I can see the line at the side of the road;” was her answer.

Then today began with a rather ominous sounding and unexpected email concerning my mom’s legal affairs. Our tension level ratcheted up another notch until we were able to get some clarification an hour later.

A few other personal observations:

  • If anxiety, stress, tension, etc., has messed up your sleep schedule, you’re not going to get a normal sleep pattern back right away.
  • It’s one thing to attend a funeral as family; it’s another thing to agree to “be the pastor” and “do” or “take” the funeral, including setting the program, coordinating the tributes, choosing the music (and playing for two songs) and doing all the speaking.
  • If it’s your mother/father/sister/brother who has passed away, that doesn’t mean your spouse is not bearing a lot of the stress and responsibility alongside of you. (Ruth, the slide show and memory book were amazing!)
  • There are always going to be details that fall through the cracks; things that didn’t get said, people you forgot to notify, guests you meant to spend more time with.
  • Grief may come later, much later, or at strange times in strange ways.

Does anyone have any other observations from their own journey?


December 22, 2008

Why Not to Use Recorded Music at Funerals

Filed under: Christianity, Church, Humor — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:00 pm

Chuck Warnock blogs this story yesterday at Confessions of a Small Church Pastor.   I immediately sent it off to several people who like e-mail forwards!

movie-poster-wizard-of-oz-judy-garlandThe Wizard of Oz is on tonight for the gazillionth time, and it reminded me of a funny story I heard a couple of years ago.  We were in Nashville for a sad occasion — the funeral of a family member.   Debbie was responsible for the arrangements, and we got to know the funeral director pretty well.  He told us this story one afternoon:

A family had made arrangements for the funeral service of the matriarch of the family.  When asked about music for the service, the family commented that their mother’s favorite song was Somewhere Over The Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.

Of course, no one could sing it like Judy Garland, so they decided to use the CD soundtrack from the movie.  Somewhere Over The Rainbow was to be played as the casket was rolled into the chapel.

Everything was ready for the service to begin, and the funeral home started the CD.  But, for some reason the family lingered, delaying their entry and the entry of the casket into the chapel.  Somewhere Over The Rainbow played over the chapel speakers, as the captivating voice of Judy Garland sang a mother’s favorite song.

Just as Somewhere Over The Rainbow was ending, the family was ready, the chapel doors opened, and the casket was rolled in.  Unfortunately, no one stopped the CD.  As Judy Garland’s voice faded away, the next track on the CD kicked in.  Ding Dong The Witch is Dead blared out in the serenity of the chapel to the chagrin of family, friends, and funeral home.  Fortunately, the technician stopped the CD before the munchkins all began to sing in unison, but the damage was already done.

And that, my friends, is why I do not like to use recorded music at funerals.

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