Barbershop Theology: Mortality, the Mortician, and Me

It was cold. I remember that.

I had just started my part of the closing routine in Caldwell’s Barber Shop, sweeping clumps of hair, filling the lather machine, and straightening up the magazine tables. I was at the barber shop following a day at school. Mainly, I was just killing time and hoping we could close promptly at 6:00. I was anxious to go home.

The barber shop door opened and I turned to see Mr. Crews entering. I figured he would sit and wait. He would be the final customer of the day.

Mr. Crews owned the funeral home in Apache, Oklahoma. In fact, these many years later, it’s still Crews Funeral Home located in the middle of town. I always thought Mr. Crews was a really nice guy. But the funeral director didn’t sit. He walked over to my dad and said something, Dad nodded his head. Mr. Crews left.

Dad finished the haircut, thanked his customer and said, “thank you, come back.” (He always said that.)

Then Dad unplugged his clippers and wrapped them in a fresh towel. He placed a pair of scissors in his breast pocket, turned off the lights and as I was already moving toward the door. I ran to jump in the pick-up truck. I started the vehicle since the keys were right there in the ignition.

I slid across to the passenger’s side as Dad climbed in behind the steering wheel. We drove all of a half a block and stopped at Crews’ Funeral Home.

“What are you going to do?” I asked, though I could have guessed.

“Just wait in the pick-up,” he said.

“Are you going to cut a dead guy’s hair?”

No answer. Dad got out and took his barber’s tools with him. About fifteen minutes later he walked out the front door funeral home. I was probably listening to the radio, I don’t really remember that much. I was trying to imagine what the inside of the funeral home looked like and how the barbering process worked in there.

We started the drive home. We drove west of town toward the sale barn. From there our house was a mile north and then a quarter mile back east. I finally asked, “Did you cut a dead guys hair?”

Nothing. But I knew to wait. No answer meant it was none of my business. Or, in my dad’s case, there wasn’t anything to explain. “What was it like?”

“He sure did sit still,” he said without ever taking his eyes off the road.

Yes, that made sense. I thought it was kinda funny. (My family has that odd sense of humor.)

I was an eleven year old that tried hard to imagine the implications of a dead body. For no good reason I guess I thought it would be creepy. I supposed that the worst possible thing would be getting locked in a room with a dead person. Of course I decided I could never be a funeral home director, not if you had to live there.


Somewhere along the way I have heard the term, “mortality rate.” There are statistics that offer infant mortality rates, automobile mortality rates, eating disorder mortality rates and more. How people die is interesting. I’m not sure why, but it is. The one thing I am certain about is that the mortality rate of people in my profession is 100%. I’ve yet to find someone who has been able to do my job and avoid dying someday.

Everybody dies.

(Oh, how I’m tempted to end my article here.)

When you die, what happens to your body? I mean, do you just get dressed up, maybe get a haircut and put in the ground?

Oft time I hear this answer at funerals: “You are finished with that old body and your soul goes to heaven.”

But wait a minute. Do you remember the part of the biblical story, when Mary and Martha went to the grace to anoint Jesus’ body? What did the guys in shiny clothes say?

“Why do you look for the living amongst the dead? He is not here; He has risen!” Luke 24:4-6

RESURRECTION! Jesus’ body was not there. He was resurrected. And so it will be for us. We are limited to an ethereal soul that floats around in clouds or some heavenly place. We will be brand new, resurrected like Jesus and we will walk, talk and celebrate eternal life. If you believe the Bible at all, read the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation. That chapter is amazing.

I’m getting into a topic that will take me hours and hours of writing to give the eschatology fair treatment. Therefore, I’ve decided to bail.

I leave you with a quote and a verse:

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord . . . And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians3:8-9)