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Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for Embracing the End of Life

Megory Anderson

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Our society has tried to make death invisible, thinking that if we ignore it long enough it will go away. Often we as family and loved ones are so afraid of death that even mentioning the word to terminal patients is taboo. We think the dying are oblivious to what is happening to them. Sadly, a dying person frequently feels afraid to bring it up him or herself. When I enter a hospital room I often hear a sigh of relief. At last, someone is here to help the family come to terms with what is playing out before them. Death has too long been the elephant in the living room, while everyone awkwardly discusses the weather.”

“There is such a tremendous need for spiritual guidance for those who are facing death, as a patient or with a loved one. Emotions and grief flood everyone involved. There are so many unknown factors. Many times doctors can predict what may happen physically, but no one can truthfully answer the big questions for us, questions like, What is dying like? Will it hurt? What is going to happen to me after I die? Is God going to be there waiting for me? Is God going to be angry at how I lived my life? These questions and fears clearly need to be addressed spiritually and not brushed aside.”

“The journey into death is such an important one that I believe each person deserves as much support as possible. The loved ones who decide to stay and vigil with the dying person receive, I believe, as much grace and blessing as the dying. It is truly a remarkable experience.”

“Sacred dying rituals are primarily and notably for the person dying. It takes great strength and courage to face death and to begin to move through it to the other side. And it takes great courage for the survivors to put aside their own fears and anxieties to help their loved ones die a peaceful death.”

“I'm still here, in my body, and it hurts. I need to feel clean and soothed.”

“I hear you." Angry words get louder when people do not listen. When a person is ill and dying, it seems as if no one understands what is happening. People are busy doing what is required for physical caretaking, but very often the inner needs of the person are ignored. Even if the dying person makes no sense, which is often the case, knowing that someone hears the words, and the feelings behind the words, and is responding, makes all the difference.”

“I have often been asked to help pray in life and death situations, especially when loved ones cannot. It is hard to know how to ask for divine help. I cannot possibly know what should be done. I cannot even pray, "God, make this person live." What I can do is pray that whatever is in the divine plan should happen with grace and with ease.”

“Has the body a soul? No. The soul has a body. And well does that soul know when this body has served its purpose, and well does that soul do to lay it aside in high austerity, taking it off like a stained garment.”

“As I work with people who are new to being present with the dying, I ask them to remember two things. (1)Stepping back from the physical and medical concerns of the patient, we must now focus on the spiritual. Dying is more than the physical body shutting down, although that is certainly the primary view in our society. The body will take charge on its own. The spiritual reality will not. Sacred dying means bringing the spiritual experience to the forefront. Deal with spiritual things, whatever they may be, first and foremost. (2) The sacred dying experience is for the person dying - all rituals and observances are for him or her. This does not mean that the loved ones and their profound feelings of loss and sadness do not count or should not be a part of the rituals. It means, rather, that the grievers will have time later to mourn and honor their feelings of loss. Loved ones must try to respect the experience of dying, and even if they need to sacrifice their own feelings for the time being, they must try to focus 100 percent on the person who is dying.”

“There is a moment when the body is about to cease its natural functions, when it is important to accept that death is happening and to begin to let go, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I have learned the signs when something is preventing this from happening. Perhaps the family or friends cannot accept that the loved one is dying. Perhaps there are some things the dying person has not reconciled - inside herself or with other people. Often there is fear of the physical act of dying.”

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