A UU Approach to Death

I took this at the Latino Community Roundtable's Dia De Los Muertos celebration and car show on Oct 24th in downtown Modesto.

I took this at the Latino Community Roundtable’s Dia De Los Muertos celebration and car show on Oct 24th in downtown Modesto.

This week has been full of death.  I gathered with a group of church members to reflect and share about our experiences of death and what we wanted to do in preparation for our own deaths.  I have been planning our Día De Los Muertos service.  In a death-denying culture, it is work to make death part of our life rather than something outside or beyond our lives.

This work is actually core to our Unitarian Universalist heritage:

“Early New England graveyards were desolate, frightening places, the stuff of nightmares. Devoid of trees or grass, they were more like town dumping grounds. Vandals and vagrants hid in them. Markers were engraved with death’s heads and skeletons. Graves were often left open to make room for more coffins. The living hesitated to walk past them, much less enter to pay their respects to the dead.

With the liberalization of Puritan New England and the rise of Unitarianism in the early nineteenth century came a need for a new kind of final resting place. In 1831, Bostonians—led by two Unitarians, physician Jacob Bigelow and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story—founded the nonprofit Mount Auburn Cemetery on a 74-acre farm in Watertown, four miles outside the city. The nation’s first “rural” or “garden” cemetery, it was first to use the term cemetery, from the Greek koimeterion for “place of sleep,” rather than burial ground.

The early Unitarian view of death and commemoration is reflected in the cemetery’s design: set in a natural country landscape, with trees and flowers, paths and ponds, hills and dells, a place where the living can come for reflection and to honor their loved ones. In contrast with the Calvinist idea of a terrible final reckoning, early Unitarians saw death as a natural life passage to be welcomed as a reunion with Nature.”   –excerpted from Kimberly French’s UU World article “American’s First Cemetery, Unitarian-Style”

I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday for our multigenerational Día De Los Muertos service. We will gather to celebrate our loved ones who have died, guided by the wisdom of Mexican and Central American Day of the Dead traditions.  Children are invited to participate in the entire service–in ritual, words, and song. Please bring mementos and/or photos of dear ones that have passed, as we will co-create an altar for our deceased loved ones.  The offering will be donated to the Latino Community Roundtable of Stanislaus County.

If you’d like to help build our ofrenda, please contact Tina Godsey!

Join me this Tuesday evening November 3rd in visiting Haven Women’s Center Día De Los Muertos display at the Gallo Center for the Arts and then dinner at Harvest Moon Restaurant.  Tuesday November 3rd at 5pm. Meet at the Gallo Center. There is no fee to visit the display.



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