“I knew from an early age that my purpose in life was different from most. As a boy, I only crossed paths with death a few times. When I was 5, my grandfather died; then Sanford, our Springer Spaniel, followed by my uncle, when I was 13. Occasionally we would lose a calf on our family farm. I learned that death was often unexpected and inconvenient. I also realized it could be beautiful and life-changing.”
John Christian’s creative and inspiring parents encouraged him to follow his heart and he heard a calling strange to many. For as long as he can remember, John Christian has possessed a sense of empathy for the dead and dying. When he announced to his parents the decision to become a “mortician” over supper one evening, his father gave his blessing by singing a John Prine tune aptly named “Please Don’t Bury Me.”
After a quintessential southern upbringing in rural West Tennessee John Christian received a full scholarship to one of the nation’s top colleges for mortuary science and funeral arts. Since 1946, men and women have studied undertaker craft and trade at John A. Gupton College in Nashville, Tennessee and John Christian quickly followed suit. Upon completion of his course of study, he embarked upon the journey he had anticipated all of his twenty years and John Christian’s life would change forever.
John Christian Phifer currently serves as the executive director for Larkspur Conservation. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer, certified funeral celebrant, certified end-of-life doula and is trained as a home funeral guide. John Christian received his formal education from John A. Gupton College in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received a degree in mortuary science and funeral arts. Further studies include home funeral guide training through Final Passages, in Sebastopol, CA and end-of-life doula certification through the Conscious Dying Institute, Boulder, CO. In the fall of 2012, he embarked on a cross-country journey by train, speaking with Americans about their wishes with regards to death, burial, and commemoration. On this trip he learned what options were most important to Americans at the end of life. John Christian is committed to nurturing the hearts of the grieving and protecting the environment one life at a time.
“What can mother nature teach us about death and our approach to the end of life? I remain committed to developing a new way for Tennesseans and Americans alike to approach death and dying by encouraging familial participation, environmental conservation and an organic approach to the funeral ritual. By providing home-based funeral guidance, natural burial support and conservation burial education and advocacy, I believe our lives and our deaths can be improved dramatically.”