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End of Life Readings

funeral readings

Henry David Thoreau

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes (adapted)

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere

Tears create a river around the boat that carries your soul life

Tears lift your boat off the rocks, off dry ground,

Carrying it downriver to someplace better

Oceans of tears we have never cried, exist in all of us

Crying has been considered dangerous

It loosens the locks and bolts on the secrets we carry

Tears initiate us into that timeless tribe

of all colors, all nations, all languages

Tears are a river that takes you somewhere.

Jan Richardson

Let us agree

for now

that we will not say

the breaking

makes us stronger

or that it is better

to have this pain

than to have done

without this love.

Let us promise

we will not

tell ourselves

time will heal

the wound

when every day

our waking

opens it anew.

Perhaps for now

it can be enough

to simply marvel

at the mystery

of how a heart so broken

can go on beating,

as if it were made

for precisely this—

as if it knows

the only cure for love

is more of it

as if it sees

the heart’s sole remedy

for breaking

is to love still

as if it trusts

that its own stubborn

and persistent pulse

is the rhythm

of a blessing

we cannot

begin to fathom

but will save us


Terry Kettering

There’s an elephant in the room.

It is large and squatting,

so it is hard to get around it. Yet we squeeze by with,

“How are you?” and, “I’m fine,”

and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather;

we talk about work;

we talk about everything else—

except for the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room.

We all know it is there.

We are thinking about the elephant

as we talk together.

It is constantly on our minds.

For, you see, it is a very big elephant.

It has hurt us all, but we do not talk about

the elephant in the room.

Oh, please, say her name.

Oh, please, say “Barbara” again.

Oh, please, let’s talk about

the elephant in the room.

For if we talk about her death,

perhaps we can talk about her life.

Can I say, “Barbara” to you

and not have you look away?

For if I cannot,

then you are leaving me alone

in a room—with an elephant.

For Grief, John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us

When you lose someone you love,

Your life becomes strange,

The ground beneath you gets fragile,

Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;

And some dead echo drags your voice down

Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;

And though this loss has wounded others too,

No one knows what has been taken from you

When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret

For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;

Again inside the fullness of life,

Until the moment breaks

And you are thrown back

Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,

You are able to function well

Until in the middle of work or encounter,

Suddenly with no warning,

You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.

All you can depend on now is that

Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.

More than you, it knows its way

And will find the right time

To pull and pull the rope of grief

Until that coiled hill of tears

Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance

With the invisible form of your departed;

And when the work of grief is done,

The wound of loss will heal

And you will have learned

To wean your eyes

From that gap in the air

And be able to enter the hearth

In your soul where your loved one

Has awaited your return

All the time.

Yehuda HaLevi, 12th-century poet

‘Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing

to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing

to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,

And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing

to love.

For your life has lived in me,

your laugh once lifted me,

your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,

a holy thing, to love

what death has touched.

The Blessing You Should Not Tell Me

Do not tell me

there will be a blessing

in the breaking,

that it will ever

be a grace

to wake into this life

so altered,

this world

so without.

Do not tell me

of the blessing

that will come

in the absence.

Do not tell me

that what does not

kill me

will make me strong

or that God will not

send me more than I

can bear.

Do not tell me

this will make me

more compassionate,

more loving,

more holy.

Do not tell me

this will make me

more grateful for what

I had.

Do not tell me

I was lucky.

Do not even tell me

there will be a blessing.

Give me instead

the blessing

of breathing with me.

Give me instead

the blessing

of sitting with me

when you cannot think

of what to say.

Give me instead

the blessing

of asking about him –

how we met

or what I loved most

about the life

we have shared;

ask for a story

or tell me one

because a story is, finally,

the only place on earth

he lives now.

If you could know

what grace lives

in such a blessing,

you would never cease

to offer it.

Permission to Mourn, Tom Zuba

In order to heal

you must mourn.

You must push grief

up and out.

Contrary to the old way of doing grief –




and stuffing your feelings and emotions

down –

you must find ways to feel



and release

all of the feelings and emotions that are

bubbling up inside of you.

You must give yourself permission to


Here are five things you can do to heal.

Starting today.

Pick one

just one

and commit to doing it every day for the

next week.

1. Write in a journal.

Every day.

Write about what you are feeling



hoping for

fearful of

or dreaming of.

Start somewhere and let it flow.

See what comes up and out.

Fill one page every day with written words.

You must actively pursue your own healing.

Time alone will not

and does not


You’ve been lied to.

It’s what you consciously decide

to do with your time

that matters.

That determines whether or not you will


There is a new way to do grief.

First you must set the intention to heal.

You choose to heal.

And then you create a plan.




No censoring.

Journaling is a concrete way to mourn.

2. Spend 15-20 minutes a day in silence.

Just you

and you.


To your breath

to your heart beating

to the birds singing.

Listen to God whispering

to you.

Listen for the voice of the one you love


who died.

Light a candle

savor a cup of tea


treat yourself to a warm bath


Slow down.


Spend time in silence

with you.

And listen.

3. Commit to crying.

Say yes to crying.

Allow yourself to cry

every day

reminding yourself that when you cry

you heal.

Crying is the body’s way of clearing out

the old

and making room for the new.




And when you do

say over

and over

and over

“I am healing

I am healing

I am healing.”

4. Start a Gratitude Journal.

Look for things throughout the day

to be grateful for.

Write down three to five things every day

that you are thankful for.

Every day.

This practice alone

has the power to change your life.

5. Rebuild your broken body.

Walk outside every day.

Eat healthy.

Drink eight glasses of water a day.


Practice yoga.

Attend a Zumba class.

Get a massage.

Nourish your body.

6. If there is something else you’d like to

add to this list

that will help you heal

add it.

You know best what you need to do to heal.

We are mind and body and spirit.

Nothing is separate; all is connected.

Consciously work on one aspect of yourself

and you work on your whole self.

The goal is to add one thing

one thing

to your day for the next week

with the intention

the goal

the purpose of healing.

Begin exactly where you are.


Next week.



and over

and over again.

Commit to your own healing.

A Loving Kindness Meditation, Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow:

Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. For the next few minutes, there is

nothing for you to do, nowhere to go, nothing to accomplish. This is a time simply to be

with yourself.

As you breathe in, imagine yourself sitting in a room meditating. Let the image come to you

however it comes. Let the image fully emerge. See yourself in a chair or on a cushion, simply

noticing your breath. As you settle into the image, you hear someone open the door to the

room, walk in, and sit in front of you. You open your eyes and see it is you sitting there in

front of you.

Somehow, in an instant, the entire story of this person is known to you. You know all the

ways he or she has suffered, has been betrayed, has betrayed others. You know all the

moments of despair and loneliness. You know all the places of shame and neglect, loss and

death. And you say to yourself, “this person knows suffering.”

In this moment, sensing this person’s sorrows in your heart, simply radiate loving kindness to

the one sitting in front of you. Distracting thoughts will naturally arise, but just come back to

your heart and extend your compassion to this person. Let this flow happen for several

minutes, if you can. (A little tip: if you have a difficult time imagining yourself sitting in front

of you, sit in front of a mirror and continue with the practice.)

When you feel ready, offer the three blessings: “May you be happy. May you be free of

suffering. May you be at peace.”

And now, let this image fade and allow the next closest person in your world to take this

seat. It may be your spouse or partner, your child, or parent. This person, too, knows

suffering and is therefore worthy of your compassion. Offer this person your loving kindness

for a few minutes, followed by the three blessings.

And now, let this image fade and allow the next closest person in your world to take this

seat. It may be your spouse or partner, your child, or parent. This person, too, knows

suffering and is therefore worthy of your compassion. Offer this person your loving kindness

for a few minutes, followed by the three blessings: “May you be happy. May you be free of

suffering. May you be at peace.”

You can continue outward from there, to friends, community, state, nation, planet, all beings


*This is an amazing heart practice. The Buddha was wise to have us begin with ourselves, the person for whom we often have the most difficulty extending compassion.

Another variation on this practice begins in the same way, but this time, when someone comes in the room and you open your eyes, it is someone who loves you thoroughly. He or she knows you and all the ways you have suffered in your life. Now, instead of being the one offering compassion, the practice here is to receive the compassion of this benevolent friend. As steady as you can, look into his or her eyes and take in the gaze of someone offering loving kindness to you.

The Mourner’s Kaddish


Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mei raba b’alma di v’ra chir’utei; v’yamlich malchutei b’hayeichon u-v’yomeichon, uv’hayei d’chol beit yisrael, ba-agala u-vi-z’man kariv, v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’mei raba m’varach l’alam u-l’almei almaya.

Yitbarach v’yishtabah, v’yitpa’ar v’yitromam, v’yitnasei v’yit-hadar, v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal sh’mei d’kudsha, b’rich hu, l’ela min kol birchata v’shirata, tushb’hata v’nehemata, da-amiran b’alma, v’imru amen.

Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya, v’hayim, aleinu v’al koi yisrael, v’imru amen.

Oseh shalom bi-m’romav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael, v’imru amen.


Magnified and sanctified is the great name of God throughout the world, which was created according to Divine will. May the rule of peace be established speedily in our time, unto us and unto the entire household of Israel. And let us say: Amen.

May God’s great name be praised throughout all eternity. Glorified and celebrated, lauded and praised, acclaimed and honored, extolled and exalted ever be the name of thy Holy One, far beyond all song and psalm, beyond all hymns of glory which mortals can offer. And let us say: Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, with life’s goodness for us and for all thy people Israel. And let us say: Amen.

May the One who brings peace to the universe bring peace to us and to all the people Israel. And let us say: Amen.


Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets and the moon sets, but they’re not gone.


I died as a mineral and became a plant, I died as a plant and rose to animal, I died as an animal and I was Man. Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

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