Contemplating life from a grave

30 Sep 2019

A grave was recently dug behind the Student Church. Every now and again someone will be lying in it, but usually it’s empty. Student pastor John Hacking dug the grave to give students the opportunity to reflect on life and especially on death. Student and Vox staff member Rein Wieringa tried it out.

The grave isn’t particularly inviting. Plant roots are growing through its walls, and the front has been set off with red and white tape to prevent students from accidently falling in. Next to the grave is a dilapidated bench for those who prefer to stay above ground. If someone had told me that the grave had been dug by a criminal who had intended it for permanent use, I would have believed it.

I walk down the steps and lie down in the grave, which seems less sinister from this perspective. Drops of water from the overhead leaves fall onto my face. I shut my eyes. Pretty relaxed, this grave.

Muslims and hipsters

I wasn’t allowed to take a book or a phone down into the grave with me. ‘You’re doing this for yourself,’ Ilse Hubers, secretary of the Student Church, had told me in advance. ‘A little time-out to contemplate life.’ Hubers had helped Hacking dig the grave. ‘I think it’s important that people have a chance to reflect, particularly in a time when students are becoming increasingly more stressed.’

Foto: Rein Wieringa

A handful of students come to the grave each day. ‘It attracts all sorts of people,’ Hubers said. ‘Christians, Muslims, hipsters. Some of them find complete rest, and others are triggered by the experience.’


I roll over in my grave. Should I philosophise about my future and decide to make radical changes? Or burst out in tears if I think about my ancestors? If they’re lying the way I am now, then dying isn’t so bad. It’s like relaxing in a park, but then a meter and a half below ground. And it’s not all that uncomfortable thanks to the cushions that Hubers gave me.

I soon lose patience. I get up and climb out of the grave, an experience richer and a few minutes closer to death. I didn’t become much wiser. The experience is just like the grave itself: you can make it as deep as you want.


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