A Viking’s Burial

“This is so amazing that we go to a church like this,” my husband whispered, as he slid a few papers stapled together across the table to me.

I had just settled the kids into Godly Play and snuck into the service, and I was surprised to see the words printed across the top of the papers—“Advance Planning for Burial Service.”

Well, not my usual conversation at 9 a.m., but our new church does have about 85% white-haired sages in the congregation. I settled in as Reverend Elizabeth began to explain the great invitation our funerals hold. Again, I was a bit perplexed and unsure that this was an urgent topic for me at the age of 42 years old, but off we went.

First, she addressed questions about the burial service, the burial plot, and the method of burial. Immediately my mind went to a conversation I recently had with my 10-year-old son. We had passed a cemetery, and I told everyone in the car that I did not want to be buried in the ground but rather wanted a Viking king’s death. I explained that I would like Andrew and the kids to put me on a raft and shoot flaming arrows to ignite the entire float at sunset. While I was certain this was a noble desire, my son Wilder had a few stipulations.

“Mom, I am going to assume you will die when you are very old because I don’t want to consider anything else. I am just going to let you know that my kids will probably be old enough to participate, but my grandkids will be traumatized if they shoot flaming arrows at your dead body,” he explained.

Andrew and I erupted in laughter. He was right. This just might be traumatizing, and death is already intense enough. We don’t need to add more potential trauma.

“You’re right, love. We will only do that if I die really late in life,” I assured him.

So, I filled out my burial paperwork quite effortlessly at church because of that recent conversation. Reverend Elizabeth continued speaking about the critical timing between death and burial. She called it “the wisdom of letting someone go, when to mourn, and how to send them to glory.” The Reverend also explained that our funeral should tell the story we want to convey about heaven.

We talked about music, place, and the people we wanted present and speaking.

I realized that I need to start making a file for this event because I love a good finale.

I looked over to see Andrew writing freely on his sheet. He leaned over to whisper, “My funeral is going to be incredible.”

As the lesson continued, I began to imagine what it would be like actually shoot flaming arrows at my mother’s body…the body that birthed me, nursed me, comforted me through heartbreaks, and rejoiced with me in celebrations. My mother’s body is sacred to my story.

After church, when we got in the car, I told my son that I thought maybe instead, they should shoot flaming arrows at a raft of my favorite clothes. He looked at me and smiled, wiser than me in many ways. 

“That sounds much better, Mom. Now you get it.” 

Christy Bauman, Ph.D., MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voices. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, Documentary: A Brave Lament, and The Sexually Healthy Woman. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of the Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Brevard, North Carolina with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.