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On the Upside: November

October Looking Up Grant Recipient: St. Joseph of Arimathea Society 
This month I had the pleasure of speaking with Holden Clark, Senior at St. Xavier High School and President of the school’s chapter of St. Joseph of Arimathea Society. As president of the Society,  Holden and his fellow students, in conjunction with students from several other local schools, arrange and perform funeral services for many of Louisville’s less fortunate deceased. When someone dies in Louisville without any next of kin or with a family, who cannot afford a funeral, the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society steps in to provide a dignified service. The services are designed to ensure that poverty does not deprive a person of being memorialized after their death. As Holden said, “We would all want someone to see us off.” Operating since 2006, the St. Xavier chapter of the Society has attended to over 1,000 funerals. It has inspired the establishment of branches at other Louisville high schools and universities.
How will funds from this month’s grant be used?

The funds from this month’s Looking Up Grant will go toward the purchase of urns and caskets, as well as general maintenance and beautification of Meadowview Cemetery. Although the services provided by the Society are not elaborate, and their labor is volunteered, even simple burial vessels are not free. Additional monies are used for the improvement of the cemetery grounds, placing headstones and other grave markers. The groundskeeping provides an extra measure of care for the dead and their families who want to visit and remember their loved ones.

The Word

Human societies have long emphasized the importance of memorializing the dead. Thousands of years ago, the wealthy spent countless resources building tombs and arranging services. This same desire for memorialization persists today. Across cultures and countries, people find ways to remember their ancestors and comfort those still alive. The concept of death is always disquieting and often frightening, but it is made more accessible by ceremonies and services that connect the living and the dead. While those who die with sufficient money, family, and friends have few problems receiving the memorial they may desire, who cares for those without? Is it acceptable for those deprived or forgotten in life to be so in death as well? The students of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society think not.

Members of the Society act as pallbearers and mourners at Meadowview Cemetery. They have buried homeless men and women, unclaimed bodies, murder victims, elderly who have lost contact with their families, and children whose parents could not afford funerals. They view their efforts as a calling to do corporal Works of Mercy and bring dignity to the dead at a current pace of nearly 150 funerals per year.

Aside from the benefit to those passed, the students of the Society discovered an unexpected benefit for themselves. Holden said that he started with the Society by volunteering for a single funeral after hearing from fellow students that the experience of the work they do “sticks with you.” Especially for students with little exposure to death or poverty, providing others with decency in death can be life-changing. Holden says their work helps to bridge a divide in the lives of many of their members and builds compassion for those who may not have all the privileges these students have. 

A Good Thought from Adam

As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, I always feel a natural pull to slow down a little. Historically, I have fought this feeling kicking and screaming. Working hard and moving as fast as possible has always seemed like the right path for me. Still, as I get a little older and watch my children grow, there appears to be an increasing value in slowing down. While few of us can afford to slow down too much, there are worse things than listening to the rhythms of the natural world. Perhaps the Fall and Winter really are a time to recharge a little. Take a breath, light a candle, drink a cup of tea in the cold air. The Danish concept of hygge makes more and more sense to me. You don’t have to overhaul your life. Just be aware of the little things that keep your mind and heart warm on cold nights.

For more good thoughts from Adam follow us on Twitter @ontheupsidepod.

About On the Upside
Mission: On the Upside exists to show off the great people doing great things in their communities and to prove that, even in troubled times, it’s easy to find people helping.

Any good company is a blend of its owners personalities. Adam Watson, one of the owners of Against the Grain Brewery, has always brought optimism and a desire to find and create good in the community. As a brewery, it’s easy to show off how fun we can be, but in reality, there’s a lot more to us than just a great party. We are also deeply passionate about our people and our community. Adam has always kept Against the Grain involved in local charities and associating with people making a positive impact on the world around them. On the Upside exists as a platform to show off this part of who we are. There are so many amazing people doing amazing things. Our success as a brewery has given us a valuable platform from which to be heard, and with great power comes great responsibility. Time to hold up our heroes!