Children, Spirituality and Death

Not an easy topic for me in March, not an easy topic for anyone. With an added poignancy that this was a class on spirituality on Maundy Thursday, I ploughed on.

We looked at SeeSaw and at Cruse, and watched the moving Saying Goodbye charity video. We looked at the questions raised in children’s literature about how death is represented, from the goblins in Outside Over There to the skeletons in Funnybones, revisiting stuff I’d done on visual methodologies for the Hallowe’en seminar in 2011. A smaller class meant that the time I set aside for discussion was ample.  I gave a warning at the start.

The purpose was to look at the less comfortable sides of spirituality, to explore beyond trees and sunshine and quiet. If, as Andew Wright says

“Our spiritual lives are marked by a need to wrestle with questions of the meaning and purpose of life, of our origin and destiny, and of the ultimate nature and truth of reality”

then some of this is about where was I before I was born? and where am I after I die?

Can I evaluate the success of the class? Hmmm. If I’d placed it earlier, I was worried it would have unduly affected the students’ choices for their essays – and last week, Theo’s anniversary, I simply couldn’t have managed. Later would not have given it due weight, maybe, or would have made this look like a Finale.

What always strikes me about this module is the amount of personal disclosure the students do. Often we – I too, I mean – talk about our faith communities. Sometimes we discuss practice. Very frequently we discuss memories (a good topic for further research?).  This leads me back to my musings on anecdote: how personal should a class get?  Would that class be better or worse if it stuck to the research of others?


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