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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Dead right

Talking about death comes easy till it gets personal. That's when the church has something to say.

"We have a tendency to minimize or avoid dealing with death," says Sharon L. Lehmann, a certified funeral preplanning consultant who works out of Heritage Funeral Home in Sioux Falls, S.D. "We want to get [confronting] it over with quickly. We're trying to avoid grief because we think we have too much already."

"Even with the language people use — expired or passed on — we continue to deny the death," observes Christie Whitaker, funeral director at Whitaker Funeral Home, Newberry, S.C., and president of the South Carolina Synod Women of the ELCA.

Both women feel that a loss of ritual in the country and even in churches is partially responsible for society's detachment from the process and acknowledgment of death. Lehmann, a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, says this is done to eliminate pain. She points out that the simple practice of most workplaces giving employees time off only for the death of family members (rather than to attend any funerals, as once was the case) shows that recognizing death is not as important as it used to be.

But Whitaker says we must keep the rituals to know that a life has been meaningful.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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