Books on Death

Posted: September 27, 2010 by joelmartin in Book Reviews, Devotional, From the Heart, Suffering, Theology

Since my Mom died, the subject of death interests me in more than an academic fashion. I have pulled out some books on death, grief and the afterlife that I plan to read or skim in order to solidify in my mind what is going on. One thing that is key to remember in this situation is that my Mom is now experiencing life after death but that it isn’t the goal or the end of the story. The final act is what N.T. Wright calls life after life after death – the resurrection of the dead. That can get lost in all our talk about heaven. Our future isn’t a disembodied state in the clouds. It’s in our body, perfected and raised, in a new heavens and new earth. Mom was buried (as I believe all bodies still are) with her feet facing east. Why? Because Jesus comes from the east and when we are raised, the presumption is that we will face his glorious appearance.

So, the books I am looking at so far are:

1. C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

2. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

3. Philippe Aries, The Hour of Our Death

If I can, I’ll share some things I find interesting out of reading these texts. Hopefully they will help me deal with my Mom’s death. As great as the Christian hope is during the death of a loved one, the inability to communicate with that person over the gulf of death is (I think) one of the cruelest parts about death. I am thankful for the example of Jesus, who wept at the death of Lazarus, and for the fact that the Bible calls death an enemy, although a defeated one. We don’t have to be pie in the sky, happy at the time of death. I’m not in favor of trying to “celebrate” at death. I want a grim funeral with the 1928 Book of Common Prayer liturgy when I die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Yes, we have hope. Yes, the future will be glorious. But yes, the pain is real and the loneliness in the midst of a world that keeps turning and doesn’t care that you are here today and gone tomorrow is real. It all has to be worked through somehow.

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