To Death

We come into this world
With you on the horizon.

Sometimes you are close.
Sometimes you are so far away that we cannot see you.

But you are there – always.
Why is it such a surprise
When we see you at our neighbor’s door?
When we watch you walk down the hallway toward us?

There are those who have met you and found peace in your presence.
Those who seem to befriend you,
Not afraid of you or what you bring.
I want to be like one of them.

Help me, God of Life, to walk the path you have for me.
I am yours.

Sitting in the Shadowlands


When the one you love
is no longer there,
hidden in the shadowlands
between life and death.
When all you can do is hold his hand,
stroke her cheek.

When tears leak out
at the smallest kindness,
or pour down your cheeks
like they will never stop.

When valiant caregivers
have done all they can
and can do no more.

When there are no words,
when there is no comfort,
when you are lost
in the shock and the grief.

You are not alone.
You are surrounded with love
of family
of friends
of those who have gone before.

You and he are held in light,
you and she are surrounded by love.
Do not fear for you are flanked by angels.
You are Beloved of the Holy One.

Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

A Blessing for the Empty Place

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You sit in the empty place that is left,
After the death, the arrangements, the service,
The cards and calls and emails,
The departure of family,
The thank yous and acknowledgements.

Left with the emptiness,
The space that can never be filled
In quite the same way.

You see a shadow, hear a sound,
Taste a food she used to love,
Start to tell him something about your day,
Smell a blanket or pillowcase,
And your eyes and heart are filled with tears.

The first week, the first month, the first birthday,
The first holiday, the first anniversary,
These bring you to the place of remembering,
The place of exquisite, lonely sorrow.

Bless you and your memories.
Bless the tender heart that beats within you.
Bless the empty space that can never be filled.

The shadows, the smells, the tastes, the thoughts,
Transform their pain into blessings,
Signs that though you live in that desperately empty place,
She walks beside you,
He laughs in the shelter of your heart.

That empty place
That can never be filled
In quite the same way
Is filled
With love.

Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

You Sit by the Bedside

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You sit by the bedside
Holding a hand, holding the space
For one who is entering the final journey

You sit by the bedside on a holy pilgrimage
Never having gone there yourself
Trusting that your presence is enough

You sit by the bedside of one who is silent
Of one who is crying
Of one who is drifting away

You enter into the thin space, the holy place
Your hand holding his hand
Your spirit touching her spirit

You sit by the bedside
Praying and singing
A witness of love and courage

Go gently, dear friend
The saints travel with you
Bless this time, this journey, this transition

You sit by the bedside
God in you and God in the beloved one
Christ in sorrow and Christ in freedom
Spirit holding all.

Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Remembering Mom

momMy mom passed away 29 years ago today. I was in seminary in Nashville and she was in Oklahoma. We had learned during the summer that her brain tumor had grown back and was inoperable. My mom wanted me to stay in school rather than come home for the duration of her life, so I decided to become an expert on death. I enrolled in Pastoral Care for the Sick and Dying. I read books like May Sarton’s The Reckoning. I wrote poetry and did art about death and how I felt.

Mom was cared for at home by Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and many, many people from Grace United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. At some point she was moved to the hospital where she lived for several months before she died. (I guess hospice care had not come to Oklahoma yet.) In October of that year, Dad called to say I might want to come to see her while she was still conscious. I flew home, all ready to have meaningful conversations about life and death and whatever Mom wanted to talk about.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it didn’t happen. (Life is funny that way.) Mom couldn’t really talk … at least with words. Every so often she would say a word or two that let us know she was still in there. But she spoke with her eyes and with the squeeze of her hand.

One day, Grandma was there getting Mom dressed, fixing her hair, and putting on her make-up. We were trying to figure out the color of the sweater Mom was wearing. Mom said, “Fuchsia.” (Only thing she said that day.)

I wanted to do death “right.” And ultimately, I realize, I did. I was there with her and she was there with me. We sat in silence or I talked to her. I feasted my eyes on her and felt my feelings. When it was time for me to leave for the airport. I leaned over and hugged her. “I love you, Mom,” I said. She said, “I love you, darlin.” Those were the last words I she spoke to me.

Some weeks after that she slipped away into sleep. And on the 16th of November, 1983, she passed into the loving arms of God. I’m grateful beyond words for Mom.