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A Joyful Path, Year Three – Week 8: Death Is A Part Of The Cycle Of Life — Story: Grandad Died

For Classroom or Home School

Week 8: Autumn
Lesson 6: Death is Part of the Cycle

I trust the natural cycle of life

Getting to the Heart of the Lesson

The human mind works hard to “stay on top of things,” “be prepared,” and “keep control.” In our day-to-day existence, these efforts provide a sense of routine, some predictability, and even a safety net when something unexpected asks us to improvise. All of this is very useful…and there is one moment for each one of us when no amount of preparation or control will change what is happening: the moment we die. This truth impacts nearly every other experience of being alive. Our life may be experienced as beautiful, miraculous, tragic, terrifying, game-changing, memorable, boring, and even death-defying, until it is not.

One of the kindest acts given to us by Life (Spirit, God, Nature) is the constant reminder that death is part of the cycle, and – even more amazing! – even in dying and death, there is beauty and value. This lesson is not about grief or the flood of emotions we often have when we encounter death, but it is important to allow and acknowledge any feelings that arise. [NOTE: Lesson 26 addresses grief directly.] In this lesson, your students will be invited to identify and appreciate the normalcy and necessity of death within the unchanging rhythm of birth-life-death-rebirth.

Understanding Death — Young children may have fuzzy concepts of death and that is ok. Most children are curious about death and have experienced it or are aware of it at some level. It is important to allow them to explore their own ideas and feelings about death without shaming or correcting them. Remain curious. Ask questions. Listen carefully and actively. Be open to their responses. Depending on their questions or the group discussion, do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Death is simple, complex and mysterious. Your job is not to explain why it happens but to give the children a safe space to explore their own experiences and ideas. Everyone’s ideas and feelings are real, valuable and valid. Encourage children to talk more with other adults who they love and trust about their thoughts and questions.

Teacher Reflection

Some reading and a 10-20 min exercise (more if you have time and wish to take it) so you are able to experience the teachings offered through this lesson).

When you speak the Spiritual Affirmation for this lesson, what do you notice? What do you feel in your body? Where? Notice if there are words that stir a particular reaction within you — resistance, tranquility, mystery, etc.

Option One — Journal. Take some time to journal about this lesson’s Affirmation and what it brings up for you. In what ways might this Affirmation be a support for you, or others in your life, right now, or in this season? If you need or want additional support around this, talk with a spiritual director or therapist, or consider writing a story about this that could, in turn, become medicine for others.

Option Two — Walk. Where in the world around you can you see death on display? In your yard, or a nearby park? The flowers you were given by a friend last week? The apple that needs to be eaten? In what ways are these objects offering beauty? What gift might they still provide?Take a ten minute walk and notice all the places where dying or death is happening. Really notice it. Observe its beauty, its decay, and thank it for the offering it has made in its living and in its dying. Invite this awareness throughout the week.

Read through the lesson before your time with the children. Decide which Activity Exploration will work best for your class (There are usually two options; choose one.). Just below the heading, “Children’s Lesson and Story” you will find the preparations checklist for this lesson so you can collect any needed materials or make arrangements to support your selected activity.

Sacred Text Quotes

Hebrew Scriptures. Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NRSV)

The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Hebrew Scriptures. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NRSV)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Indigenous, North America. Yakima Nation

Some day the Great Chief will overturn the mountains and the rocks. Then the spirits that once lived in the bones buried there will go back into them. At present those spirits live in the tops of the mountains, watching their children on earth and waiting for the great change which is to come. The voices of these spirits can be heard in the mountains at all times. Mourners who wail for their dead hear spirit voices reply, and thus they know that their lost ones are always near.

Taoism. Chuang Tzu 23

Birth is not a beginning; death is not an end. There is existence without limitation; there is continuity without a starting point. Existence without limitation is space. Continuity without a starting point is time. There is birth, there is death, there is issuing forth, there is entering in. That through which one passes in and out without seeing its form, that is the Portal of God.

Wisdom Quotes

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings happy death. ― Leonardo da Vinci

After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. ― J.K. Rowling

Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward. ― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. ― Helen Keller

When in the fullness of its time this creation wilts, its vigor returns to its own source. This is the underlying natural law. When the elements of the world fulfill their function, they come to ripeness and their fruit is gathered back to God. ― Hildegard of Bingen

Love falls to earth, rises from the ground, pools around the afflicted. Love pulls people back to their feet. Bodies and souls are fed. Bones and lives heal. New blades of grass grow from charred soil. The sun rises. ― Anne Lamott

Be sure to click here to download the Teaching Introduction and Instructions.

Review & Commentary