“This is a new cadaver,” the student teacher said cheerfully. “That means most the skin will be on it. It’s rare to get this kind of opportunity.”
She unzipped the plastic covering the dead body.
My sister and I gasped.
Unfortunately, our fresh cadaver looked suspiciously like our dearly departed great-grandmother who had passed just a month or two before.
Just like her, actually.
My sister reacted by bursting into tears and ran out of the room.
I stayed, tried to focus on the guts instead of the face, and ended up puncturing a lung. Not mine. A dried pair that we were passing around the room.
Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day for the Muir girls.
Death isn’t something that we try to think about very often. But when you are face to face with a dead body that looks like someone you loved, it’s all you think about.
It’s been on my mind more and more lately. Three acquaintances died recently. Two of them are just faint memories and lives well lived. The third was younger than me. She had so many dreams ahead of her. So much…life.
Death is the unwelcome friend that we pretend doesn’t exist as we carve out our existence. We have a culture that idolizes youth and immortality. Yet it always comes and stares at us in the face.
My friend Clay Morgan says that merely existing is not living. He says that life isn’t defined by extreme fear or faith but rather a quest to be fully alive during the simple blandness of routine days.
I think he’s on to something.
A few weeks ago, Clay asked me if I would read his book if he sent it to me.
He said it was about Jesus and zombies and finding life after death before death, or something like that.
I really didn’t understand what it was about but it sounded intriguing and unlike the books that I usually read, so I said yes and hoped for the best.
I thought the book was all about zombies so I watched the first season of The Walking Dead while I waited for the book to come.
You know, as homework.
I was wrong.
Undead is about life.
It’s that whole finding life after death before death thing that Clay was trying to tell me about. In his book, he explores and idea that is more horrifying than an episode of The Walking Dead.
We’re the Walkers.
Even if you don’t watch the show, the concept is hard to swallow yet so simple to grasp. I’ll break it down for you if you don’t want to wade through the gore and blood:
We’re damned. All of us.
Every attempt to save ourselves is futile.
Death will come. There’s no escape.
And we know it, even if we try to live like it’s a lie.
Spoiler alert: in the end, everyone dies.
But thankfully, God specializes in the impossible things like bringing people back to life. Jesus didn’t come to train us in sin management. He came to raise us from the dead and give us eternal life.
In the Bible, there are six instances of people being brought back to life. We forget about those. As my pastor says, God will cross any barrier to love us. Even death. Just look at John 3:16 for a reminder of that.
Clay wanders a bit in the book, first exploring how past cultures were fascinated with death and then fast-forwards to our current zombie-loving culture. Without reveling in the macabre, he raises a lot of questions while nudging people towards the answers.
It’s never boring. He also keeps it hilarious, going from one pop culture reference to another. Michael Jackson and the Wizard of Oz even make an appearance.
The thing is, everyone dies but not everyone lives.
It’s true. Don’t act like you don’t know it.
Most of us claw for an existence but never really revel in the good gifts that we’re given. Instead, we fight for the things that we don’t have. We try to settle for the murky shadows of the things we were created for. Or worse, our longings get out of hand and become insatiable.
We take turns as spiritual zombies, either through a mind-numbing depression that also entombs our hearts, or as spiritual vampires who prey on others.
Clay says that selfishness is spiritual vampirism. That it’s ”living based on our needs rather than the needs of others. At its worse we can suck people dry and move on to the next victim, always looking for ways to get what we want no matter how many people get hurt in the process.”
I hate that he’s right. But most of all, I hate that I see me in that description.
Back to the Bible for a moment.
The story isn’t over. We’re offered a blood transfusion of sorts that will save our souls. But we’re too busy clawing to grasp the grace. That’s what the book reminds us of time and time again.
Overall, I was surprised at how much I liked Undead. It’s gospel-centered without being preachy or judgmental. Instead of damning, it offers a fresh reminder of the eternal life God offers.
I think that’s worth talking about.
Interested in getting your own copy of Undead? Order it.
What do you think it means to be fully alive?