The seventy-five page collection edited by Larry Kehler provides comprehensive information from a Mennonite perspective. More than a theological approach, the booklet guides caregivers through special situations like the funeral of a child, stillbirths and miscarriages, suicides, burial issues, and cross-cultural considerations. A full twenty-five pages is devoted to forms and other resources (a step-by-step funeral planner, living will declaration, etc.) including instructions on building a homemade casket.
In a sense the material reads like a technical manual. That's not a criticism-it is essential for pastors and other caregivers to know what minimum they should provide in the cases of death in families in their parishes.
What is hard to communicate is the 'extra mile' which will be essential for those who are mourning and grieving to feel that they are not alone. I most frequently felt God's nearness through His people. The numerous examples, such as sermons and help lists are indeed what makes the booklet not only useful but also one which breathes a life giving atmosphere.
Our Western (Christian?) culture has a long developed aversion to death. I grew up with a notion that grieving was kept personal and to a minimum. We have few or no timelines to which we can go to help us during this very, very stressful period.
In this connection I found the reflections of Pastor Kaneboodtra regarding Laotian practices, very refreshing. Even setting a mourning period of 100 days may seem stilted but the absence of any pattern (which pertains to most of us with Caucasian background) is a weakness going in the other direction. Well before one year has passed, those who are grieving and mourning are expected to "get on with their lives"-a phrase I have grown to detest even though I was never one who was plagued with this kind of useless advice. There is a fine line indeed between promoting a new industry-the death industry-and promoting life giving care for those who are left with earthquake-sized holes in our lives.
I think Larry's work will help us better prepare for death, honour those who have died and assist, with loving arms, those who carry on with lives which will never be the same.
-Lorne Buhr, Edmonton
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