Return This Body

This body that has borne her all her life from birth to death, that gave her breath to live and sight to see, that has served her every need, that has shown you the beauty of her unique person in its eyes and made you aware of her presence in your heart, and without which she would be a mystery to you; we now return to its source with the grace it deserves from us, without our attachment to it but with our lasting love for her.

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Forgive Our Errors

We gather here with ________as she lies here, newly dead.

The force of her life has just left this body that once was full of life, that she inhabited to move, to touch, to work, to love, to dance, to rest.

We give thanks to this body that held ________ through her life, and bore her unto death.

As we prepare to care for her in death, please forgive any errors we may make.

Help us make space to remember her out loud, to cry openly, and to laugh easily, as she would like.

Guide our hands to care for her tenderly, lovingly, and patiently.

Thank you for bringing us together to share in this work of love and service. Amen

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The Wheel

Time is a wheel: the day that we met
Is still there:
Everything changes but nothing is lost:
All that we shared,
All that we ever loved, belongs to us still:
Time is a wheel
Whatever has ended is just about to begin
All that we feel,
All that we ever felt, will come back again
Time is a wheel
The sound of your laughter, the rain in your hair,
Your hand in mine,
Your knock at the door, your step on the stair -
All are still there
Because time is a wheel and death will come round
As birth will come round
As love will come round, as peace will come round,
As joy will come round,
As life will come round, because time is a wheel
Bringing back even yet,
All that we ever shared , and the day that we met.

--Susan Stocker

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Peace, my Heart

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.

--Rabindranath Tagore

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From the Garden of Proserpine

We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man’s lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,

Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.

--by Algernon Charles Swinburne

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AfterWards

Take her not from me.
Let it be this hand
Who wipes the folds of her flesh —
A final encore to fading days.
With each tender stroke,
May her seasoned soul unwind its threads
from this mortal coil.
With each grieving caress,
May her enduring love weave more tightly
into the whole of my being.

Take her not from me,
Until the last essence of who she was is truly gone,
And I have captured only what she left for me —
In this hand and heart.

--Pashta MaryMoon

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Living Each Day

Now I am gone, now I am lost to you 

Find me again just as you used to do: 

  

In the house – when you go from room to room you’ll find 

The bits and pieces that I’ve left behind. 

  

In the street – of course . . . I’ve stopped to window-shop; 

You carry on, my love, I’ll catch you up. 

  

At night – as darkness slowly fills the sky: 

I’m late; don’t fret; I’ll be there by and by. 

  

At morning – when the sky is still blue-black, 

I had to go out early: I’ll be back. 

 

In sunshine – as you peer into the glare – 

A shape that seems to be both light and air. 

  

In rain – as you look out and people pass – 

One leaves a reflection printed on the glass. 

  

In the garden – when you doze away the hours 

I pass with a smile on my face, and my arms full of flowers. 

  

Lisa Kitson

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The Return of the King

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower

high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.

The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up

out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.

For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him

that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:

there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”  

--J.R.R. Tolkien

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Memorial Day

It is easily forgotten, year to 

year, exactly where the plot is, 

though the place is entirely familiar 

a willow tree by a curving roadway    

sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves; 

  

damp grass strewn with flower boxes, 

canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies 

circling in draped black crepe family stones,    

fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored    

nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries; 

  

such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down    

on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair    

brushed back, and the single waterfaucet, 

birdlike upon its grey pipe stem, 

a stream opening at its foot. 

  

We know the stories that are told, 

by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy    

regarding the precise enactments of their own    

gesturing. And among the women there will be    

a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering. 

  

The morning may be brilliant; the season 

is one of brilliances sunlight through 

the fountained willow behind us, its splayed    

shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,    

irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones. 

  

It may be that since our walk there is faltering, 

moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,    

bluebells and zebragrass toward that place 

between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way    

is lost, that we have no practiced step there, 

and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us. 

  

Michael Anania, "Memorial Day" from Selected Poems

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The Inevitable

While I was fearing it, it came, 

 But came with less of fear, 

 Because that fearing it so long 

 Had almost made it dear. 

 There is a fitting a dismay, 

 A fitting a despair. 

 'Tis harder knowing it is due, 

 Than knowing it is here. 

 The trying on the utmost, 

 The morning it is new, 

 Is terribler than wearing it 

 A whole existence through. 

 

 --Emily Dickinson 

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Return This Body

This body that has borne her all her life from birth to death,

that gave her breath to live and sight to see,

that has served her every need, that has shown you the beauty of her unique person

in its eyes and made you aware of her presence in your heart,

and without which she would be a mystery to you;

we now return to its source with the grace it deserves from us,

without our attachment to it but with our lasting love for her.

 

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A Prayer

May perpetual light shine upon 

The face of he who rests here.  

  

May the remembering earth  

Mind every memory he brought.  

  

May the rains from the heavens  

Fall gently upon him.  

  

May the wildflowers and grasses  

Whisper their wishes into the light.  

  

May we reverence the village of presence  

In the stillness of this silent field.  

  

Adapted from a poem of John Donohue

 

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from The Tempest

We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

--William Shakespeare‘The Tempest’ Act IV, Scene I  

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Amy Cunningham
Tibetan Dying Prayer

Through your blessing, grace, and guidance, through the power of
the light that streams from you:
May all my negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations,
and blockages be purified and removed,
May I know myself forgiven for all the harm I may have thought
and done,
May I accomplish this profound practice of phowa, and die a good
and peaceful death,
And through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all
other beings, living or dead.

--Tibetan Book of the Dead

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When a Great Soul Dies


When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”


― Maya Angelou

 

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