Let’s Talk About Death, Baby

Let’s talk about death for now
To the people at home or in the crowd
It keeps coming up anyhow
Don’t be coy, avoid, or make void the topic
Cuz that ain’t gonna stop it

GenXers and Elder Millenials no doubt clocked that the verse about was not actually penned about death. It’s from Salt N Pepa’s 1990 hit Let’s Talk about Sex. But sub in the word “death” and it still works. I believe I could make a convincing argument that we’re much more comfortable talking about sex than we are about death.

Queen Elizabeth died today. She was 96.

It’s a momentous day for the country of Great Britain and the world.

It’s terribly sad.

It’s not tragic–although multiple news outlets and countless social media posts would have us believe that it is.

I stirred things up a bit on TikTok by asking that we normalize not calling the death of a 96-year-old tragic. People had thoughts.

Some people thought I was being negative. One person thought that I was denying people the space to mourn.

Neither is true.

One of the best times to talk about how we talk about death is right after someone dies. And as sad as we might be about the death of the queen, she was not our mother or grandmother, so we have a kind of distance that we don’t have when we lose someone who is an integral part of our lives.

Of course, the Queen was not just anybody, and her death has the kind of reverberations that don’t occur when our next door neighbor passes away. But still. She was 96. We knew she would not live forever. We knew that because she was human (even royals are), her time on earth was finite.

Death is a tragedy when it happens to young people. When people die because others choose violence. When there is a senseless accident or natural catastrophe. Those deaths are tragic. The death of a loved one, world figure or even beloved pop icon well into her nineties is sad and worthy of respect and mourning…but not tragic.

I think it’s important to talk about how we talk about death because death is a part of life. In fact, it is death that infuses life with much of its meaning. Because we are not here forever, our time is precious and not to be taken lightly or for granted.

And as Christians, is tragedy the word we want to be using in regards to death–particularly a death preceded by a long, well-lived life? Aren’t we supposed to believe that death is not the end? How do we communicate that part of our faith when we talk about death?

Nobody (not even the queen) gets out of this life alive.

Death is not the end of the story.

It’s hard to lose someone we love (and even someone who has been part of our lives from a distance).

Let’s pay attention to how we talk when we talk about death.

May Her Royal Highness rest in peace and in love. No doubt Prince Philip was delighted to see her.


Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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