Living in Death

Right at the moment, I’m feeling a little surrounded by death. I’m in Boston for an indeterminate period of time accompanying my grandfather on his journey towards death. As I wrote yesterday, Paul Bingman, a friend and amazing person died on Sunday, and I’m having conversations with various folks about planning a memorial service for him (something I know more about than most folks, being involved in several funerals a year in a professional way).

I’m coming to a conclusion. Dying is hard work. I don’t know how hard it is for the one actually doing the dying (though it looks pretty rough, and on the basis of my observations I really wouldn’t recommend it). But for those of us involved in ancillary ways, it takes a toll, both physical and emotional. I know this sounds awfully flip for a post ab out death and dying, but sometimes, humor is all one has to hold things together.

For the past couple of days I’ve been beginning to think about a prayer (or meditation, if you prefer) to be said before entering a space where someone is dying (or in hospice). So far, I’ve gotten this far:

Here I am, prepared to accompany ___________ on their final journey. As I spend time with him/her let me be there for him/her, not for myself. May I answer them in the ways that are best for him/her, not those that are easiest or most comfortable for me. May my presence bring us both peace.

As the task becomes harder, may I remain equal to the task. And when I am not, may I forgive myself, knowing that what I do is hard work, and impossible to do perfectly.

May the time I spend with __________ be as meaningful and enjoyable as it can be for both of us.

It’s not perfect. It’s not exactly what needs to be said. But it’s a start.

May the source of comfort grant peace to all those who seek it.

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3 Responses to “Living in Death”

  1. Flowersbyfarha Says:

    This could also be modified for those who visit/support anyone in hospital whether or not in terminal phase, particularly those who are just beginning to process devastating diagnosis/prognosis and who need true hope and not glib assurances they can “beat it.”

    Thank you… This comes at a time when I’m part of a team trying to help a friend face a negative prognosis honestly without giving in to it.

  2. cc Says:

    dear rabbi, that is a great prayer to say before entering the room of someone who is going through the passage of dying. having been a person around people who are dying i often find myself praying prior to entering their room so that i may be as mindful as possible regardless of how uncomfortable or sad i may be feeling. but the amazing GRACE that transcends has almost always been present allowing a peace to come into the time we share. your grandfather is so fortunate to have a grandson that wants to be there at this most important time.

  3. PDX Breakfast Says:

    [...] as my grandfather-in-law gets ready to leave this world (you can read more about the situation here and [...]


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