Heaven, Healing and a Side of Bluegrass
- Tuesday, December 08, 2009
When they first starting writing together, David Crowder and Mike Hogan ( musicians and members of David Crowder Band) wanted to fill a void. Yes, there was a gaping hole in each of their hearts when their friend and pastor Kyle Lake died. But this was a different type of void.
"No one seemed to be talking about death," says Hogan, "even in the church. It was not a topic you heard much about. When you're looking for answers and just not finding anything, it can be really unnerving."
On Oct. 30, 2005, Lake was electrocuted while baptizing a mutual friend at University Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. The tragedy made national headlines. "Because it was such a visible death and we were visible as a band, it felt like we should let people go through this with us," Crowder says.
Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die was the end result. Weaving candid instant-message exchanges between snippets of bluegrass history and a philosophical examination of the soul, Crowder and Hogan have succeeded in filling the societal void. The book tackles death in a completely open, touching, and strangely humorous way.
At the same time, writing helped the coauthors on a personal level. While working on the second edition (released by Zondervan this past November) the two men realized how much they had healed in two years—and how much the book had facilitated that process.
"At first it pulled me emotionally back to where I was," says Crowder. "There was some scar tissue there. To start carving away at it again was pretty tough, especially since the release of it was right around the anniversary. It made everything a little bit tender again."
But as the project progressed, Crowder realized that writing allowed him to revisit his emotions. "I think that's a unique thing a lot of people going through a grieving process don't do. It's not typical that you would write down everything you are feeling and thinking. To be able to do that was amazing."
Hogan adds, "It brought everything back into focus. It's surprising how much you forget in two years of living. I don't think it's a bad thing to look back and see how you were feeling and thinking at the time. It was hard, but at the same time it was good."
Kyle's death was not the first one that Hogan experienced. He lost his father while in grade school. A childhood friend died when he was in high school. A few days after a breakup, he learned a friend's mom had died of breast cancer. His wife's grandmother died while the Hogans were in the emergency room, dealing with a kidney stone attack.
When Kyle died in 2005, Hogan "completely fell apart." He tried to hold on to the composure he "perfected and nourished" his entire life but he had never grieved properly. "We don't. None of us do."
Writing helped Hogan process a lifetime of grief "in a pretty intense way." Working on the book "brought it all up again" and he started to think about death in a new way. "I never put words to it before, and never really solidified it in my head. I never thought, ‘What am I feeling and what does this all mean in terms of my faith? How am I living day to day, and what I am afraid of or not afraid of?'"
Looking back, Hogan says he wishes he had this experience "much, much earlier but it would have been impossible. I think now I have a much healthier outlook on death than I did before."
A good deal of the book traces the history of the soul—how people have viewed our eternal state through the ages. With an eye toward heaven, argue Crowder and Hogan, people are free to live more fully on earth.
But today's culture has shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum, where even churches avoid death and focus on making our earthly existence better through social justice.
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