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Death

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

Top Hat Meets Obelisk

A great one from Richard Mammana.

For about a century, proud and dead Americans imagined themselves to be Egyptians. Throwing away the simple, hopeful crosses of common grave-marking, and setting aside the robust traditions of soaring angels and death’s heads of Puritan or German decoration, we erected obelisks in our own memory. It doesn’t seem to have ever extended to mummification and canopic jars, but it was a fad of fads that grew up following the Napoleonic spoliation of Egypt—and the sudden appearance of Cleopatra’s needles in Paris, Rome, London, and New York. It ended as abruptly as it began. But…

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Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

Option B: A Primer for When Life Falls Apart

When Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In debuted, I was in seminary with a newborn baby and an hour and a half commute. People in my life who did not have children at home were telling me to read her book right and left. “Its so insightful!” the empty nesters told me. “Women really can have it all!” well-meaning, but childless people insisted.

Admittedly, I did not buy the book. I saw Sandberg interviewed a handful of times and thought, “I spend most of my nights getting a baby to bed. And then I fall asleep into an account of the…

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Where Glen Campbell Is Going

In honor of the country music legend, we bring you one of his great songs, written, of course, by the great Jimmy Webb. Webb called Campbell his “big brother and co-culprit.” He described Campbell’s stage presence this way:

Just thinking back I believe suddenly that the “raison d’etre” for every Glen Campbell show was to bring every suffering soul within the sound of his voice up a peg or two. Leave ’em laughin’. Leave them feeling just a little tad better about themselves; even though he might have to make them cry a couple of times to get ’em there. What a majestically graceful and kind, top rate performer was Glen on his worst night!

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

One Day At A Time Is No Way To Live: Love, Death, and Parenting Teenagers

A first sneak peek into the Love & Death Issue, which you can order here. It comes from the one and only Emily Skelding. Remember, subscribers/monthly givers get a discount on the upcoming D.C. Conference!

I relish long-term planning and list-making. During this academic year, I planned to write a book, my son Sumner strategized to get into his first-choice college, and my daughter Ramona declared she wanted to take an extra math class in her free time. We broke our big goals into littler ones and scripted the things we had to do to get there. Looking ahead is my…

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Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

Digging up Death: The Macabre Story of Count Carl von Cosel (And Us)

The Miami Herald called it the love story that defied death, the dark romance that hit the front page of the paper in 1940. It all started when Carl Tanzler, or Count Carl von Cosel as he preferred to be called, spotted the beautiful but dying tuberculosis patient Elena Hoyos in a Florida hospital in 1931. Though Elena never returned his affections, was married at the time, and died shortly after she caught von Cosel’s attention, he visited her tomb every day for the next year and half. And then, one fateful night, he claims to have heard Elena singing…

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This Is Really 40

This Is Really 40

My family and I recently took a trip to Fiji. (I will pause momentarily for your pity.) My husband billed the “vacation” as part of my present for my upcoming fortieth birthday, even though since (a) the kids came along, and (b) trips with kids aren’t vacations, then by deductive reasoning, (c) I did not get a vacation for my birthday. Nonetheless, it was one of many experiences we’ve been fortunate enough to have because of our move to Australia. The only other way I could see myself ever getting to the South Pacific is as a contestant on The…

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The Prayers of the Phoenix

Another fantastic excerpt from Eerdmans’ forthcoming reprint of the 16th century Four Birds of Noah’s Ark. This is the introduction to the fourth and final bird, the Phoenix, a collection of prayers relating to death and resurrection. 

The fourth bird is now flying out toward you; spread, therefore, your arms wide open to welcome it, and this Phoenix will carry you up and on to a second life that shall be ever, everlasting.

Among all birds, the Phoenix lives the longest–so must our prayers fly up in bright flames all the days of our lives. We must be petitioners even to the last hour and last minute of our breath. The Phoenix has the most beautiful feathers in the world, and prayers are the most beautiful wings by which we may mount into heaven. There is but one Phoenix upon earth, and it has but one tune in which God delights, and that is the prayer of a sinner. 

When the Phoenix knows she must die, she builds a nest of all the sweetest spices, and there, looking steadfastly at the sun, she beats her wings in its hottest beams and between them kindles a fire among those sweet spices and so burns herself to death. So, when we desire to die in the vanities of the world, we must build up a nest and fill it with faithful sighs, groans, tears, fasting and prayer, sackcloth and ashes–all of which are sweet spices in the nostrils of the Lord–and then, fixing our eyes upon the cross where the glorious Son of God paid the ransom of our sins, we must not cease till, with the wings of faith and repentance, we have kindled his mercy and in that sweet flame have all our fleshly corruptions consumed and purified. Out of those dead ashes of the Phoenix does a new Phoenix rise. And even so, out of the ashes of that one repentance shall we be regenerate and born anew.

Out of the purest flames of love, Christ kindled a fire that drank up the wrath of his Father, a fire in which all people should have been drowned for their sins, and in that fire did he die to redeem us who were lost. Yet he did not leave it there. To have died for us would have been worth nothing if he hadn’t also, like a true Phoenix, been raised up again. As a grain of wheat is cast into the earth and there first rots and then comes to life again and after yields itself in a tenfold measure, so was our Savior cast into his sepulcher, where his dead body lay for a time and then came to life again and then was raised up. And in that rising did he multiply those benefits that before he sowed among us, when he was torn in pieces and scattered on the cross.

When he died, he died alone, but when he did rise, he did not rise alone, for in his resurrection do we all ascend…

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

The training wheels came off at the cemetery.

That sounds incredibly macabre,  like a snippet from an Edward Gorey book, but the reality is much more prosaic. With the cemetery a couple houses down from where I grew up on a busy state route, it was the safest place to learn to ride.

My great-grandfather, grandfather, most of my great-uncles, as well as my father and his siblings all helped take care of the cemetery at some point in their lives. One of my first summer jobs was helping my great uncle mow around the gravestones. The cemetery wasn’t a scary place to…

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It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

It Comes at Night and the Fear of Grief

If you’ve caught any trailers for It Comes at Night, you know it’s a scary one. I went to see it the other day, and, preparing for the worst, I took a seat near the back and nestled in behind my popcorn. Sensing a particularly horrific part coming, I fixed my eyes at a corner of the screen. Alas the scares came too suddenly for me to look away, but for the most part, I didn’t want to. In Trey Edward Shults’ second feature, not all was as it seemed. It Comes at Night promised something sinister lurking outside the red…

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Heaven Side Encouragement for Earth Side Ministry: A Remembrance of Ed Salmon

Heaven Side Encouragement for Earth Side Ministry: A Remembrance of Ed Salmon

The first time I met the Rev. Ed Salmon, he was ordaining a friend of mine at All Saints, Chevy Chase. I was immediately struck by just how much he felt like a bishop. He was open-hearted, generous, and incredibly Southern.

Later I came to realize that he had either worked with or had a major impact on many of the Episcopal clergy who I know and love. Years ago, when one of my friends came into the Diocese of South Carolina as a newly ordained priest, Bishop Salmon told him, “In the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Chapter Five Verse Four

This morning’s devotion was written by Mary Zahl. 

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
(Matthew 5:4, ASV)

Again and again, I have been struck by Christians using the language of faith to ward off the presence of pain. It’s understandable—pain is painful. All of us want to avoid it as much as possible, and when we can’t avoid it, we try what we can to minimize its side effects. As Christians, we get nervous admitting the depth of our pain, because what if it is a sign of a lack of trust in the goodness of God, a lack of faith?

I was listening to a friend tell me about her life in recent months. She had moved across the country after living happily in the South for many years. As I listened to her, it was clear to me that she was on the verge of tears from the change, but every time the tears came to the surface, she would say, “but I know I have so much to be thankful for, and I know God loves me, and that is all that matters.” No tears allowed.

I don’t believe in telling people what to do, but if I did, I would have said to my sad, exhausted friend, “What you need is a good cry. You have lost so much. Of course, there are also good things about your move, but you will not be able to see those clearly until you mourn the losses. Cry until you cannot cry any more. And, for God’s sake, don’t think your tears are a sign of faithlessness or ingratitude. Did not Jesus himself say, ‘Blessed are they that mourn?’”

When pain is denied or kept at bay, the sufferer misses out on the opportunity that comes with facing pain honestly, which is feeling the weight and powerlessness of it. Counterintuitively, the experience of going into the pain generally brings out compassion, peace, and even joy on the other side.

Like the day we call Good Friday, our deaths (no matter how small) can be transformed—resurrected—such that we might even call them good. Conversely, when we hold onto words of “Christian hope” almost as if they were magic, we miss out on the joy and hope that come when the resurrection power is given rather than grasped.

The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge

The speaker from the talk below received a standing ovation at our 10th Anniversary conference in NYC. Her book, The Crucifixion, has gone as viral as a 700-page theological magnum opus can. She’s Fleming Rutledge, speaking this time about the resurrection.

The Raising of the Crucified One ~ Fleming Rutledge from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

PS. Expect an excellent interview with Fleming in the upcoming Love & Death Issue of The Mockingbird. If you haven’t already subscribed, you can do so here!