Why I teach class in a cemetery

Yesterday I did it again.  It was my freshman Bible class.  The only comment I make to start is “Let’s go.”  We leave the classroom, exit the school doors, and pile into my Ford pickup truck and another car.  We then take a short drive into a nearby park and stop at a wooden railing, hop the fence, and climb a short hill to find a 200 year old cemetery at the top.

Then I give them this challenge: find the oldest and most recent burial stone and then the oldest and youngest person buried.  It takes a bit for them to wander and observe to find the answers.  We finally gather on the stone wall boundary and begin the conversation that everyone avoids.  Death.

So what is a conversation about death like with 15 year old boys in an old cemetery? Pretty fascinating.  First, we uncover that most of them have never seen anyone actually die.  They are shielded from the actual event by many things.  Second, we realize that almost all of them have experienced the effects of death, some of them painfully with relatives or friends.

Then I pop the question: “Do you think it’s morbid to talk about death?”  The response yesterday was typical:

No, Coach, it’s helpful.

Hey, if you are a Christian, you have nothing to fear.

No, it’s reality.

And then we talk about the hope of heaven or the resurrection of Jesus or just the limited time we have in this life.  Yesterday I noted that if I live to be 75, I only have about 7,300 days left. Even at 15, if they live to be the same age, they only have 21,900 days.  It’s a reality check. There is a limit to this life.  You can waste it or use it well.  The one thing you can’t do is have it last forever.  The Scriptures remind us to “number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12)

And then we leave to head back, but hopefully not leave behind what happened in this class.

If you think the return trip was morbid or solemn, think again. Soon after we left the cemetary, one of the boys playfully tackled another one on the way down the hill.  Then they begged me to drive slowly so they could be late to their next class.  And laughter filled my truck all the way back.

So…what do you think about my cemetery class?

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About Coach D

I have been a teacher and a coach for many years. My real name is Bill Delvaux, but my students call me Coach D, hence the user name. This blog is about the journey into the unknown I am walking and the landmarks I am navigating along the way. The destination: becoming who I really am as a man. I invite you to join me by reading along every Monday and Thursday.
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6 Responses to Why I teach class in a cemetery

  1. Katy says:

    Almost as much fun as a visit to the body farm at UT Knoxville! Death is not my favorite topic, but the promise of eternity is! You’re an amazing teacher and a trip to the cemetery is a great way to get your students attention and keep them engaged. Way to go Coach!

    • Coach D says:

      Thanks, Katy, so much. So much of my journey has been trying to figure out a way to connect high school students to the realities of Jesus. This ended up being one of those ways that has just clicked over the years. Thanks for reading the blog and commenting. It’s so much fun for me to read what others are thinking! Did you have to endure the body farm at UT? I have heard about that place. UGH!

  2. Taylor D. says:

    What that class gave, that is so often missing in life, is perspective. So often it takes such a major event like a death to cause us to bring our focus back to what is important. I had one recently that brought a lot of joy into my life with the birth of a child.

    Its funny how connected birth and death are.

    Anyway, I realized how much time I have wasted and am hoping to change that. There are so many things that are more important in this life and I dont want to waste the next 17,200 days chasing after the wrong things.

    • Coach D says:

      Taylor,
      I see that you have done the math for yourself. It is unnerving and so clarifying. I’ve got 7300 days if the average age is my lot. I may have a lot more or a lot less! And thank you for the note about your son. I was blown away by your choosing part of his name is after me. That is such an honor. Stay in touch. I love hearing your comments!

  3. Mark says:

    Reminds me of the most memorable Easter sunrise service I ever experienced… in a cemetery! Great lessons learned (or at least pondered) when we think about mortality… and our hope in Christ. Thanks, Bill, for the reminder.

    • Coach D says:

      Mark,
      You are so welcome. I have never had the chance to do Easter sunrise that way, but I can imagine the impact it must make. Thanks for the comment!

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