Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Riddle and Mystery: A Program on the Big Questions for Grade 6

Taking It Home: Thinking of Death

The question is not whether we will die but how we have lived. — Joan Borysenko, psychologist

Talk about the quote. What does it mean to you?


Today's Big Question is "What happens when you die?" We talked about some different answers to the question which come from a variety of belief systems. We heard what a Unitarian Universalist minister said when he had cancer and expected to die soon. We found out that UUs talk more about heaven- and hell-like situations on Earth and what to do about them, than we talk about an afterlife. That is because many UUs believe we live on after life through what we did when we were alive—as well as in the memories of our families and friends. We also explored rituals to memorialize people after they die.


What do family members have to say about the question: "What happens when we die?" What does your family do so relatives who have died live on, through you?


Go to a cemetery and look at the gravestones. What can you learn from them? Do those messages help the people buried there live on? Are there flowers and mementos? Why do people put them there?


Go through a family photo album or "family tree." Choose somebody you know little about who has died. Find out as much as you can about that person so they can live on through you.


Ask another big question: Is anything worth dying for? Patrick Henry was a famous patriot who said, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death." Was he right? What do you think is worth dying for?


Photograph a cycle of life and death. You might start with a seed, photograph a flower as it grows through the summer, and photograph it again when it dies in a frost. You might photograph spring buds and then beautiful dying leaves.


Find out about capital punishment in your state. Do you have a death penalty? Does it make sense to you to kill somebody to show that it is wrong to kill somebody? Do you agree with the UUA that capital punishment is wrong? What can you do about it? Try sending an e-mail or writing a letter to your governor. If the state does not have capital punishment, watch for news stories about criminal justice. Do the jails and prisons in your state have enough money so they can help or rehabilitate criminals and not just punish them? If not, send an e-mail or a letter to the governor saying you want things changed. But if you do not agree with the UUA that capital punishment is wrong, what should you do in that case?