"People need and want to die with a clear conscience, with a feeling that the burdens of this life are past, and with a knowledge that their wishes will be granted," writes Megory Anderson, a theologian, educator, and liturgist who runs the nonprofit Sacred Dying Foundation in San Francisco. In this accessible and practical resource, the author shares rituals she's designed over the years to help individuals in the process of dying. Thomas Moore has written a thoughtful foreword.
Many members of the Baby Boom generation have created special rituals for their marriages and the births of their children. Now they are looking to bring the same kinds of spiritual dimensions to the time surrounding the dying of a loved one. Anderson provides plenty of ideas beginning with the creation of a sacred space for the person who is about to cross over to the other side. She suggests incorporating religious symbols that might have meaning for the individual. She then discusses the importance of cleansing the place; containing the space; diffusing outside noises; and incorporating smells, music, and prayers.
Two of the richest chapters are on rituals to release emotional grief and rituals to comfort the body. In the first, Anderson reveals the need for the dying person to let go of burdens of anger, guilt, and unfinished business. In the second, she shows the healing beauty of touch. Sitting vigil is an honor that demands reverence and openness to what arises in the moment. The dying person's wishes are always paramount.
Sacred Dying also includes chapters on dying alone, ending life support, and the period after death until the funeral. Anderson concludes with appropriate readings, prayers, poems, songs, and texts for use in the rituals.