May 12, 2014

"Many who have purchased countless boneless, skinless, chicken breasts can't imagine a farmer killing a bird with her own hands."

How Farm Life Taught Our Kids About Death

Our culture is used to outsourcing anything related to death. Barely any of us kill the food we eat, so we can easily overlook death's role in the process. Even lifelong meat-eaters are uncomfortable with a hunter's enthusiasm in killing food to feed his family. Many who have purchased countless boneless, skinless, chicken breasts can't imagine a farmer killing a bird with her own hands.

When people die, we pay others to care for them and make arrangements. Our involvement is mostly distant and conceptual, focused on memories and prayers, rather than the embodied reality of death. I was fascinated when a friend told me about a funeral she attended where the family held a wake for a few days before they buried their loved one themselves. Are we missing part of the process of grieving because we have lost the practice of facing death with all its pain and sadness?
During the Easter season especially, the gruesome reality of farm life gives us a tangible connection to life and death. It helps us, young and old, understand our creator and our place on earth. Death is sad. It's tragic despite our belief in a God of new life and resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says the temporary sleep of death shouldn't make us grieve like those who have no hope, but this doesn't mean we won't grieve at all. Our grief takes on a different face because we have hope.

So, as parents living on a farm, we allow our children to see death on a level they can understand. We're surprised to find, in some ways, they are better equipped with the imaginative capacity to hold these complex tensions of life and death.
This week I took my children to the small cemetery on the farm property. We came to see the vibrant patch of daffodils that grow beside the five headstones. But while we were there, we said a prayer. When I finished with, "Thank you God for being stronger than death," I caught my daughter nodding her head in agreement. As we walked down the path toward home, she said simply, "Maybe when I die, I will be buried there."

Even though many of us might be startled by such a straightforward approach to the end of life, I believe that is what we should long for. Our culture's approach to death is often denial: the way we treat our elderly loved ones, the ways we outsource death, and the lengths we go to pretend we aren't aging. But Hebrews 2: 14-15 suggests we have nothing to fear, that Jesus' death freed those of us who were imprisoned because of our fear of death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 12, 2014 12:25 PM | Permalink