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Making Death Right
UPDATE: Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow riffed on the topic, "When Death Gets Personal" in their half-hour PODCAST in August 2009
This past weekend I had a chance to experience yet again why our interpretations matter - deeply matter. On Sunday, I was providing the guest sermon at the largest Unity church in America: Renaissance Unity, in Warren, Michigan, just north of Detroit. What a thrill to preach in such an exquisitely beautiful setting, and to a large, racially diverse, and vibrant congregation!
I had been invited to present my "Gospel According to Science" message at both services on Sunday morning and to offer a two-hour program the following evening because of one particular man who had been a stand for his church extending me an invitation: Henry Newnan. I first met Henry two years ago in Florida and, since then, we talked on the phone nearly a dozen times. He was one of my greatest champions.
Sunday morning I was stunned to learn from church leaders that Henry had died just two days before Connie and I arrived. I also learned that two gorgeous screens and 9000-lumen projectors had been installed in the sanctuary just a few months ago, thanks to a donation by Henry and his wife, Yvonne. When I learned that Henry had wanted to ensure that the screens would be operational by the time I presented there, I felt even more remorse for, what seemed to me, to be an untimely death. "Oh, the timing is quite perfect," his daughter Dorothy assured me when I met her just before the first service.
She continued, "For months Henry had known that his time was short. Even though he can't be here to see you onstage, more important for him is surely that the timing of his death means that his children, siblings, and other family, who are all here today, will get to hear your words - and there is nothing he would have wanted more than to give his loved ones a chance to embrace the perspective that he himself found so deeply meaningful." I stood speechless at the generous and empowering interpretation Dorothy offered, which was echoed by her brother Hal (Henry Jr.) a few minutes later.
For years one of my mottoes has been "Make life right!" But here I was seeing in a profound way that even death can be made right.
Indeed! The previous afternoon, I had watched my beloved, Connie, bring to an audience near Cleveland, Ohio, what I consider to be her best program,"Death Through Deep-Time Eyes." In a little over an hour, Connie delivers a worldview shift by way of talk, singing, and slides. It is a shift that demonstrates one of the great emotional and spiritual benefits of an evolutionary point of view, for we come to realize that Death is natural and generative at all levels of reality; and thus that death is no less sacred than life.
Note: An early version of Connie's program was captured on video and is included in our DVD, "CelebratingEvolution" (available for online purchase at: http://thegreatstory.org/dvd.html). The gist of this program is also included in my book, pages 93 to 103 in the Viking (white cover) edition.