Worship Materials: Death and Grieving

From the Celebrating Mystery collection

THEME   The Letting Go and the Nurturing Waters

 

THOUGHTS FOR REFLECTION

  1. Every tear is a womb which can birth new life.
  2. Grief is the narrow passage through which we pass from death to life.
  3. Tears are for the washing away of grief ‑
    Hope is for the building of dreams.
    Love is the tender life-force which conquers death.
  4. What arrogance to think that with the emergence of mind, the life- force in human beings must forever exist in that limited form of being.
  5. All we were and are is not lost at death – for better or for worse it has perceptably or imperceptibly impacted upon the whole, for the whole is a constantly evolving reality.
  6. Death is a transformation point, rather than an ending.
  7. The God-like person weeps for others more than for their self.
  8. Without tears and dreams there is no healing.
    Without laughter and singing there is no savor.
  9. When I place my cross against God’s cross, a doorway is created into the mystery of the sufferings of the world.
  10. Grief has no magic escape hatch only a way through it and forward.
  11. It is not the tragedies of life which destroy us, but the way in which we react to them.
  12. Death is not absorption into but fulfillment within a greater reality.
  13. The art of dying is to let go gently, loving and with hope.
  14. Death is the dawn of a greater reality, a dawn not a sunset.
  15. The person who has not accepted the life that is in death will never be free from the death that is in life.
  16. The parts are a manifestation of the process but are not the process itself. The process precedes the parts and proceeds beyond the death of the parts and so it is with our own life.
  17. There is a time to embrace the phase of the process which we call life and a time to embrace the phase of the process which we call dying.
  18. There is no life without death and no death without life in the Cosmic processes.

 

PRAYERS

  1. O God of life’s sorrowful mysteries, help us to lay aside our inhibitions and like Jesus grieve openly so that through immersion in the waters of loss we may emerge with new hope and with increased compassion for all who mourn.
  2. O Jesus Christ who openly wept for Jerusalem and at the tomb of your friend Lazarus may we follow your example and allow our tears to heal our grief and create new hope within us.
  3. O God, the one who is open to all the pain of the world and who grieves for us more than we grieve for ourselves, may the image of the betrayed and crucified Christ enable us to know your presence in the valley of the shadow of death, and to work our way patiently through the waters of our loss towards that space of wholeness where new life fills our heart.

 

HYMNS

Must death appear as always stealing life. (BL)
All our dying shares a process. (BL)

When the shadow of death.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

Everything has its own season.

http://www.methodist.org.nz/resources/hymns/the_mystery_telling

May our friend. (STS1)

Though the earthly life. (STS2)

Through the love of God our Father. (STS2)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications

 

POEMS / REFLECTIONS

BURIAL

As the mourners’ tears

mingled

with the watery sky

freshly blossomed trees

guarding mounded earth

whispered

“Though she is dead

her life-space

inhabits your heart.”

 

THE GRAVE

The ground

lies fallow

on my father’s grave

but soon

grass will grow

as nature rehabilitates

the bare soil ‑

and so it shall be

with my grieving heart.

 

PRELUDE?

Is autumn the prelude to death ‑

The penultimate bar in life’s symphony

Or is there another movement

Playfully awaiting

Our eager participation?

Who knows? Who can tell?

For beyond all our phantom certainties

There lies the mystery

A mystery which,

Thank God,

We do not have

To wait till death

To joyfully

Experience!

 

I SHALL NOT DIE

I shall not die

for though my body

be returned to the earth

it shall become part

of the ever-living

ever-dying

cycle of nature.

I shall not die

for though my thoughts

disperse

and my emotions wither

I shall live on in word

and enterprise.

I shall not die

for as my ancestors live on in me

so shall I live on

in life’s genetic pool

and randomly

re-emerge

in them.

And if,

in God’s mercy,

my spirit

is given new life,

then only the worn cage

of my living

shall be stripped

from me

And I shall never die.

 

WHAT LIVES WITHIN?

What lives within my body?

Is it only a multitude of living cells,

tissues, muscles, fat, chemicals, water, air,

or is there some fire

that death cannot extinguish?

 

WHY DID WE WAIT UNTIL YOU DIED?

Why did we wait until you died

before we affirmed the value

of what you did?

That word picture of you which the parson painted

made the funeral service come to life,

made it a real celebration,

a celebration of you.

But how much better it would have been

if we could have addressed

even a fraction of it to your face

rather than to your corpse.

How different your life might have been

if in the process of

“telling you what we thought of you”

we had reminded you of

your strengths as well as your weaknesses,

your potential as well as your failures

and increased your faith in yourself

instead of adding to the burden

of your guilt and insecurity.

God, may we turn our values upside down

so that

affirming each other while we are still alive,

celebrating what is imperfect and

enjoying what is still in process,

we may create the soil

in which the human spirit grows.

1 Corinthians 1:4

 

LIFE

Listening to the man in the cubicle next to me in hospital I became aware that despite the nurse encouraging him to live he was in fact expressing a will to die. The word ‘Hospice’ emerged. Neither the nurse, the patient or myself knew where the hospices were located. Such is what seems to me to be an obsession with the metaphysical idea of life that we have given life an absolute status, independent of the processes of the Cosmos. Surely, it would be more humane to let each individual listen to what the processes of the Cosmos are saying to them about the right time to die, rather than to try to impose on them a humanly crafted idea of the right of other people to determine what is right or wrong for a particular individual.  My hope is that when it comes to an appropriate time for me to die society will be compassionate enough to allow me to terminate my life, regardless of the desires of others to impose their wishes upon me assuming some God-like superiority.

 

FOCUS FOR ACTION

  1. “Unless we have made our peace with death, we will not be able to feel free to live life fully.” Do I avoid thinking about death? Do I need some theory about what happens when I die, or is it sufficient for me to put my trust in God and know that all will be well? Could I use a mantra like “I put my trust in you, O God, and know that all will be well”?
  2. A great deal of our fear of death centers around our unfamiliarity with the process. However, each time we go to sleep we experience a small death – we let go and drift into a world that is deeper than our consciousness. Some Tibetan monks practice the process of dying, learning to move from closing down the senses (sight to hearing to smell), closing down feelings to closing down consciousness. They report moving from a dim blue-red light to a vision of great whiteness then to redness which changes to darkness and on to the clear bright light of death. Is this something I could do or is it enough for me to read about and understand the process, knowing that through it all God is with me and that “all will be well”?  (Reference P300-302 “Who dies” by Stephen Levine, Gateway Books)
  1. Have I taken the necessary steps to ensure that my financial and legal affairs would be in order if I died suddenly?
    As my probable time of death approaches, would I be willing to provide an input into the planning of my funeral service?
  2. How do we reconcile the love of God with the suffering which animals experience as they are eaten alive by other animals? Perhaps it is a case of sacrifice and the associated suffering being an essential part of the death and resurrection (new life) process of the Cosmos in which the welfare of the individual is sacrificed for the greater good of the many.

Celebrating Mystery Logo

LOGO NOTE: At the heart of the mystery all the separate boxes disappear and all is one, all is love.

Text and graphic © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.

 

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