Most people only think about heaven / the afterlife during times of death. So, if you’ve had someone close to you die, you probably have strong opinions about the existence or nonexistence of the afterlife.
And, our opinions are probably wrong.
If heaven exists at all, it – by definition — is much different than what you or I imagine it to be. And while my religion’s scripture (Christianity) has little to say about what heaven is like, it seems that my religion’s preachers – especially the ones at funerals – know much more about it than their Bible.
So, here are eight common ideas about heaven that I think are false.
Heaven is not …
One. An opiate. Like religion, heaven has too often been used as an opiate to blind people to the dismal reality that someone is in fact dead.
Two. It’s probably not about you. It’s selfishness that has made this place so shitty. So, if heaven is better than what exists today, it will probably only happen when we are somehow drawn out of self-absorption by something greater (i.e. God).
Three. A product of subjective validation. If you find heaven meaningful, good for you. But, that doesn’t mean it exists. Just because you like the idea of an eternal life where everything is unicorns and butterflies is not proof for heaven being an actual reality.
Four. Subject to wishful thinking. “In heaven I’m going to have a Ferrari with Kathy Ireland as my wife. I’ll dress her up in My Little Pony outfits and I’ll play Black Ops all day. Oh yeah, and grandpa will be there too and we’ll fly around together on the back of my Pegasus.” Probably not.
Five. A product of communal reinforcement. If the only reason you believe in heaven is because your family believes in heaven and because everybody wants to believe in heaven, you probably haven’t thought about it too much. And any perception you have about heaven probably sucks.
Six. Escapism. Or, an excuse to trash this world because it’s going to be destroyed anyways (some evangelicals believe this.) If anything, I believe in an inaugural eschatology that is bringing heaven to earth as opposed to bringing us earthlings to heaven.
Seven. Hedonism. A place where we can do whatever the hell we want. Yeah, that place – if it exists – is called Las Vegas.
Eight. A certainty. That’s right. It’s a hope, not a certainty. It’s a valid hope during death. It has a valid place in our lives now, but you simply can’t prove its existence empirically. In some sense, we are creating heaven. We are bringing it into existence. And its creation is conditioned on us losing our egotistical outlook. Heaving is becoming, but it’s not a certainty.
Yesterday was National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day. In fact, I captioned another grumpy cat for the occasion and posted it on my facebook page.
There’s “Middle Name Pride Day” on February 12th; March 18th is both “Awkward Moments Day” and “Forgive Your Mom and Dad Day”; and August 6th is “Hamburger Day”, so why can’t there be “Death Appreciation Day”?
Sure, most countries celebrate a “Festival of the Dead” in which they remember those who have passed away, but why not have a day solely devoted to Death?
I know, you have some questions, such as:
What would we celebrate?
1.) We’d celebrate all of the motivation that death gives the world.
I mean, would you really work so hard for that retirement if you knew you’d live forever? Would you change your bad habits right now if you knew you had an eternity to attempt to rectify yourself? Death makes responsible citizens out of most of us.
2.) We’d enjoy and celebrate other great things that Death has given us … like inheritance money.
3.) We’d also take time to be thankful for all the space our forefather’s have left us. How crowded would this globe be if it wasn’t for the Grimm Reaper? I love my relatives, but living shoulder to shoulder with them for an eternity might get slightly annoying.
4.) And then there’s the great art that Death has given us. We’d never have Edgar Allen Poe, nor could we imagine the joys of heaven with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. And who wouldn’t miss the incredible casket haulers we call “hearses”? Hearses are moving creativity that never would have been created had Death never moved us.
5.) And chicken … steak … sushi. Seriously, why would you want to live if not for sushi? But, guess what, no death, no sushi.
6.) We’d celebrate the world economy. No death, no economy.
If you wouldn’t die, would you buy safety features on the car you probably wouldn’t own and that you definitely wouldn’t have insured?
Heck, would cars or planes even exist if we lived forever? You’d just walk to anywhere you wanted to go cause you’d have all the time in the world.
Doctors, maybe preachers, and certainly funeral directors would all be without jobs. Almost everybody would be affected (although I’m sure lawyers would find a way to get work).
7.) And for all the good people Death has taken, we shouldn’t forget it’s also taken some real jerks. Hitler. Stalin. Who would want to live forever with those guys? Death has stamped a massive “FAIL” on the forehead of most the world’s dictators. And, it’s killed all the billions and billions of stink bugs that have lost their lives.
Can you imagine a world where death never touched a stink bug? If you can’t imagine it, I can and it’s one that’s very, very stinky.
So, thank God for death. We should probably decide to celebrate it.
Once we pick a date, we can all wear black and celebrate the greatness of death by having picnics in cemeteries, listen to Emo music, watch Zombie movies and top off the day by taking a couple minutes off our lives in homage by smoking cigarettes.
If I’ve missed any of Death’s praises, please lend your voice in the chorus of appreciation.
Hey, John … I’m at a funeral right now, do you mind if I call you back?
No matter how many times we ask people to silence their cell phones at a funeral service, there will always be ONE person who didn’t get the memo! The worst is when somebody not only let’s their phone ring, but THEN DECIDES TO ANSWER IT!!! No lie, I’d say one in every five cell phones that ring during a funeral service are answered! So rude!
In fact, a fellow funeral director said this at my Confessions of a Funeral Director Facebook page:
Possibly my favorite blog is FAILBLOG.ORG.
This past week they posted a funeral fail. Apparently, during the funeral service, a cell phone went off and the ringtone was the song “Staying Alive.” Awkward.
So, I was thinking there’s probably some other funny ringtones that could occurring during a funeral:
Here’s some of my more general thoughts:
1. Having the Gospel song, “I’ll Fly Away” would be weird to have as ringtone, but it’d be even weirder if you had it and it went off during a funeral.
2. Right Said Fred’s “I’m too Sexy.” That would just be awkward and … sort of funny. Sort of on par with “Baby Got Back” These songs are awkward in real life, but at funerals ….
3. The ring tone that I used to have for the funeral home was the Country Song, “Shh, It Happens.” It never went off during a funeral, because obviously the funeral home wouldn’t call me if I was at a funeral, but if somebody else had that ring tone and it went off during a funeral … not cool. In fact, any ringtone with a curse word … not cool at a funeral.
4. The Star Trek theme song. Twilight Zone theme.
5. My wife recorded herself yelling, “Mom! Mom! Let me out!” in her mother’s cell phone and then set that as her mom’s cell phone ringtone. Awkward in real life. Extra awkward at a funeral.
Although, as a side note, I have heard of people getting buried with their cell phone. So having a modified version of the “Let me out!” ring tone go off at a funeral from inside the dead guy’s casket … sort of morbid, but sort of funny and ingenious at the same time.
SO, THAT’S ABOUT IT FROM ME! Let’s here from you! I only touched a couple genres … I pretty much missed the 60s, 70s and 90s, and didn’t touch hip-hop, rock or even Contemporary Christian. Post your awkward ringtones at a funeral below!
Today’s guest post comes from the innovative Jeff Staab. Jeff was a funeral director for 20 years; and eventually translated that experience to his entrepreneurial enterprise “Cremation Solutions”. Jeff has produced the fringe Personal Urns and has recently introduced the beautiful and innovative “Your Touch Portraits.” Jeff brings a creative spark to the funeral industry. Check out his line and give him a “Like” on Facebook.
Sometimes during our lives, there are occasions when realizations hit us so suddenly and with such force that we’re left feeling dumbfounded. In one such instance, a funeral director friend was discussing a family’s loss with them when he came to the abrupt realization that he was terribly uncomfortable with the idea of his own mortality. He worried that as long as he held this discomfort, it would come across to the families he spoke with.
When he talks with the distraught families who have come to him for comfort and guidance, they will be able to sense, at least on some level, that he hasn’t even come to terms with his own mortality. How would he be able to help them? And what business does he have in providing them with advice in dealing with their loved one’s demise?
Turns out that many funeral directors have not made any of their own plans to die. I was at a recent presentation in a room of a hundred or so funeral directors and the presenter asked how many in the room had made their own pre-arrangements. Only a handful of hands went up! You would think that being reminded of death everyday would cause some insightful planning. Funeral directors deal with the subject of death for a living, but many of them are discomfited by talking about their own deaths.
Most often, people who are bothered by the thought of their mortality and haven’t considered what happens after death aren’t going to feel okay talking about it. Discuss it with your own loved ones, plan out your personal funeral or draw up a living will. When families come into your funeral home for guidance, ask them what they believe happens after death. Many will feel comfort and relief at discussing it with you. This can also help you be more compassionate and sensitive toward them while they’re planning their loved one’s funeral. In the end planning your own funeral can only help you relate to the families you serve every day.
Unfortunately, the topic of death is a taboo in modern society, particularly in the Western world. One may occasionally hear such things discussed briefly during religious services, but other than that, it’s something that we’re taught not to think or speak openly about. Regardless of this taboo, death is natural and it inevitably happens to everyone, so it’s good to consider the topic of your own death in order to help yourself, and therefore others, come to terms with it. Here are some of the things that you might want to consider.
Unease With Your Mortality
There are many reasons for being ill-at-ease with the idea of dying. Maybe you went through something traumatic and life-altering like an accident. Maybe death was never spoken of in your family. Perhaps, as is often the case, your particular faith paints death in a negative and fear-ridden light. Before you can accept the fact of your own mortality, it’s important to identify why you’re uncomfortable with it in the first place.
What Happens When You Die?
People fear what they don’t understand, and the topic of death is not immune from this fact. Most people fear dying because they feel uncertain about what happens afterward. Therefore, the most common reaction is to ignore the question entirely and resign yourself to crossing that bridge when you get to it. Although it may be uncomfortable or confusing, thinking about what happens after death can be excellent brain exercise. Ask your friends and loved ones what they think. This topic is also richly discussed both in books and online and can offer some helpful ideas and insights. Similarly, you can discuss it with a pastor or other religious advisor.
Are You Comfortable Speaking About Your Own Death?
When you have a set idea of what happens after your own death, you’ll be better equipped to handle losses in your own life as well as others. Individuals who have beliefs about what comes after are better able to cope with death than those who have no such beliefs. In many cases, the hardest part of dealing with the death of a friend or loved one is facing the unknown, so having some idea can make you feel less distraught.
Studies have shown that people who are unsure of how they view death may occasionally reject their current religious beliefs. In some cases, they’ll adopt an old set of beliefs or look for another form of spiritual guidance or teaching. Some of them may turn bitter and angry while others opt to live a life in service to others by volunteering and donating money, time, advice or assistance. The thing that all of these people have in common is that they’re seeking to make sense of death and find greater meaning in being alive.
After someone makes sense of a particular experience with death, either from a religious perspective or by assigning some other meaning to it, that person is usually able to move on. Many people who have personally dealt with such grief say that there are good things about it. They got through the experience, and after great contemplation on the frailty of life and what it means to them, they came out of it with a different way of looking at that life.
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