Readings

Robert Hugh Benson
Robert Hugh Benson, A short prayer
To me who am left to mourn his departure, grant that I may not know sorrow as one without hope for my beloved who sleeps in thee; but that, always remembering his courage, and the love that united us on earth, I may begin again with new courage to serve Thee more fervently who art the only source of true love and true fortitude; that, when I have passed a few more days in this valley of tears and in this shadow of death, supported by Thy rod and staff, I may see him again, face to face, in those pastures and amongst those waters of comfort where, I trust, he already walks with Thee. Oh Shepherd of the Sheep, have pity on this darkened soul of mine!

Buddhist sayings
Buddhist Sayings
What the caterpillar perceives is the end; to the butterfly is just the beginning,
Everything that has a beginning has an ending,
Make your peace with that and all will be well .
What is born will die,
What has been gathered will be dispersed,
What has been accumulated will be exhausted,
What has been built up will collapse,
And what has been high will be brought low.
When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices.
When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries.
Your end, which is endless, is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air.
Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the present.

John_Bunyan
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress
I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight myself.

I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name to me has been as a civet-box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet; and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun.

His word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He has held me, and has kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way.

Janet Frame, The suicides
Janet Frame, The suicides
It is hard for us to enter the kind of despair they must have known and because it is hard we must get in by breaking the lock if necessary for we have not the key, though for them there was no lock and the surrounding walls were supple, receiving as waves, and they drowned though not lovingly; it is we only who must enter in this way.

Temptations will beset us, once we are in. We may want to catalogue what they have stolen. We may feel suspicion; we may even criticise the décor of their suicidal despair, may perhaps feel it was incongruously comfortable.

Knowing the temptations then let us go in deep to their despair and their skin and know they died because words they had spoken returned always homeless to them.

Kahlil Gibran, Life and death are one
Kahlil Gibran, Life and death are one
Life and death are one, even as the river and sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity…

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt it into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb,
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Victor Hugo, Eternal spring
Victor Hugo, Eternal spring
Winter is on my head but eternal spring is in my heart. The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the world to come.
For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and verse; but I feel that I have not said one-thousandth part of what is in me. When I have gone down to the grave I shall have ended my day’s work; but another day will begin the next morning. Life closes in the twilight but opens with the dawn.

Inuit legends
Inuit legends
Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones shines down to let us know they are happy.
Who comes? It is the hound of death approaching. Away! Or I will harness you to my team.
I have grown old.
I have lived much.
Many things I understand.
But four riddles I cannot solve.
The sun’s origin.
The moon’s nature.
The minds of women.
And why people have so many lice.

Martin Israel, Living alone
Martin Israel, Living alone
A period in the wilderness, if it serves no other purpose, does at least help one to get one’s priorities in order. The things once assumed to be essential for one’s life, such as the constant company of other people, society’s approval, one’s own reputation amongst those who amount to something in the world’s eyes, and the number of important people one knows seem suddenly to dissolve like a mist of unreality. It is a revelation in those narrowed circumstances how simple life can be when it is shriven of the accretions of social usage and conformity. What at first seems to be almost too unbearable to confront suddenly widens out into a prospect of inner freedom, perhaps the first opportunity to be oneself since one came to self-awareness when one was a small child. It is at this point that one may begin to know oneself for the first time in one’s life. The self-one knows is, in fact, a central point within, the secret place which is the cornerstone on which the whole edifice of the person is erected.

Jewish proverbs
Jewish proverbs
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.
The ‘gift’ of grief is that it presents us with the opportunity to heal and grow.
Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but in thankfulness that he was.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now are a part of us; as we remember them.
God is closest to those with broken hearts.

Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer, A Jewish prayer
Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer, A Jewish prayer
At the rising of the sun and at its going down
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us as we remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart
We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make
We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us as we remember them.

C.S Lewis, A grief observed
C.S Lewis, A grief observed
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear… The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.

Part of misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.

I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet.

There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. I dread the moments when the hose is empty.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don’t really mind so much… Love is not the whole of a man’s life … Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this ‘common sense’ vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace.

Something quite unexpected has happened. It came this morning early. For various reasons, not in themselves at all mysterious, my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks. For one thing, I suppose I am recovering physically from a good deal of mere exhaustion. And I’d had a very tiring but very healthy twelve hours the day before, and a sounder night’s sleep; and after ten days of low-hung grey skies and motionless warm dampness, the sun was shining and there was a light breeze. And suddenly at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remembered her best. Indeed it was something (almost) better than memory; an instantaneous, unanswerable impression.

To say it was like a meeting would be going too far. Yet there was that in it which tempts one to use those words. It was as if the lifting of the sorrow removed a barrier.

Why has no one told me these things? How easily I might have misjudged another man in the same situation. I might have said, ‘He’s got over it. He’s forgotten his wife’, when the truth was, ‘He remembers her better because he has partly got over it.’ …

Looking back, I see that only a very little time ago I was greatly concerned about my memory of H. and how false it might become. For some reason – the merciful good sense of God is the only one I can think of – I have stopped bothering about that. And the remarkable thing is that since I stopped bothering about it, she seems to meet me everywhere. Meet is far too strong a word. I don’t mean anything remotely like an apparition or a voice. I don’t mean even any strikingly emotional experience at any particular moment. Rather, a sort of unobtrusive but massive sense that she is, just as much as ever, a fact to be taken into account.

Daphne Du Maurier, The Rebecca Notebook
Daphne Du Maurier, The Rebecca Notebook
The old adage, Time heals all wounds, is only true if there is no suppuration within. To be bitter, to lament unceasingly, ‘Why did this have to happen to him?’ makes the wound fester; the mind, renewing the stab, causes the wound to bleed afresh. It is hard, very hard, not to be bitter in the early days, not to blame doctors, hospitals, drugs, that failed to cure.

Harder still for the woman whose husband died not by illness but by accident, who was cut short in full vigour, in the prime of life, killed perhaps in a car crash returning home from work. The first instinct is to seek revenge upon the occupants of the other car, themselves unhurt, whose selfish excess of speed caused the disaster. Yet this is no answer to grief. All anger, all reproach, turns inwards upon itself. The infection spreads, pervading the mind and body.

I would say to those who mourn – and I can only speak from my own experience – look upon each day that comes as a challenge, as a test of courage. The pain will come in waves, some days worse than others, for no apparent reason. Accept the pain. Do not suppress it. Never attempt to hide grief from yourself. Little by little, just as the deaf, the blind, the handicapped develop with time an extra sense to balance disability, so the bereaved, the widowed, will find new strength, new vision, born of the very pain and loneliness which seem at first, impossible to master.

I address myself more especially to the middle-aged who, like myself, look back to over thirty years or more of married life and find it hardest to adapt. The young must, of their very nature, heal sooner than ourselves.

Navajo prayer , Life must go on
Navajo prayer , Life must go on
Grieve for me, for I would grieve for you.
Then brush away the sorrow and the tears
Life is not over, but begins anew,
With courage you must greet the coming years.
To live forever in the past is wrong;
It can only cause you misery and pain.
Dwell not on memories overlong,
With others you must share and care again.
Reach out and comfort those who comfort you;
Recall the years, but only for a while.
Nurse not your loneliness; but live again.
Forget not. Remember with a smile.

Linda Pastan, the six stages of grief
Linda Pastan, The six stages of grief
The night I lost you someone pointed me towards the five stages of grief.
Go that way, they said, it’s easy, like learning to climb stairs after the amputation.
And so I climbed.
Denial was first. I sat down at breakfast carefully setting the table for two. I passed you the toast – you sat there. I passed you the paper – you hid behind it.
Anger seemed more familiar. I burned the toast, snatched the paper and read the headlines myself. But they mentioned your departure, and so I moved on to…
Bargaining. What could I exchange for you? The silence after storms? My typing fingers?
Before I could decide, Depression came puffing up, a poor relation its suitcase tied together with string. In the suitcase were bandages for the eyes and bottles of sleep. I slid all the way down the stairs feeling nothing.
And all the time Hope flashed on and off in defective neon. Hope was my uncle’s middle name, he died of it.
After a year I am still climbing, though my feet slip on your stone face. The treeline has long since disappeared; green is a colour I have forgotten. But now I see what I am climbing towards.
Acceptance written in capital letters, a special headline: Acceptance, its name is in lights.
I struggle on, waving and shouting. Below, my whole life spreads its surf, all the landscapes I’ve ever known or dreamed of. Below a fish jumps: the pulse in your neck.
Acceptance. I finally reach it.
But something is wrong. Grief is a circular staircase, I have lost you.

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
An individual human existence should be like a river – small at first, narrowly contained within its banks and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. But gradually the river grows wide, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.  The man or woman who in old age, can see his or her life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things they care for will continue.

Seneca
Seneca, In the presence of death
In the presence of death, we must continue to sing the song of life.
We must be able to accept death and go from it’s presence  better able to bear our burdens and to lighten the load of others.
Out of our sorrows should come understanding.
Through our sorrows, we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so.
Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows.
Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end;

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

The Tempest
Prospero. Be cheerful, sir: Our revels now are ended.
These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, the cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve and, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.

Socrates, To fear death
Socrates, To fear death
To fear death, gentlemen, is no other than to think oneself wise when one is not; to think one knows what one does not know.  No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.

Arnold Toynbee, Man’s concern with death
Arnold Toynbee, Man’s concern with death
My answer to Saint Paul’s question “O death, where is thy sting?” is Saint Paul’s own answer: “The sting of death is sin”. The sin I mean is the sin of selfishly failing to wish to survive the death of someone with whose life my own life is bound up.

This is selfish because the sting of death is less sharp for the person who dies than it is for the bereaved survivor. This is, as I see it, the capital fact about the relation between the living and the dying. There are two parties to the suffering that death inflicts; and, in the apportionment of this suffering, the survivor takes the brunt.

Yizkor service, We remember him
Yizkor service, We remember him
When we are weary and in need of strength,
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember him.
When we have a joy we crave to share
When we have decisions that are difficult to make
When we have achievements that are based on his
We remember him.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember him.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember him.
At the rising of the sun and at its setting,
We remember him.
As long as we live, he too will live
For he is now a part of us,
As we remember him.

Unknown, Love eternal
In death there is beauty
We will sleep like angels
With the tranquility of innocence

Death will not conquer our love
As we are bounded by memories,
And our love will flourish

Death is our sadness
For I will long for your flesh,
But our journeys will not be far apart

Death is our sanctuary
From the woes of life;
In death we will find peace

Death brings us unwavering hope
For the time of resurrection;
In death we will find love eternal.

Unknown, Never let the weeds grow
Never let the weeds grow on the path that leads to the abode of trusted friends – or in time they’ll get so thick and tall you won’t see where it starts or where it ends. So much intervenes. So many things – come crowding in between the busy years. And when at last the hidden track you seek into a tangled maze it disappears. Weeds can’t thrive where memory clears the path. A letter or a card can do so much if footsteps can’t maintain a well-worn way. We all need friends at times – so keep in touch.

Unknown, Well-meaning advice
The well-meaning advice of friends to “take up a hobby” or “find new interests” just brings home the reality that no one can understand your grief. Most people find it hard to accept the concept that there is no cure.

When the person your life revolved around is no longer there, it seems trite and stupid to suggest that needlework will fill the void. Sorrow is very tiring, it also seems to destroy one’s ability to concentrate. A stiff drink or television may give temporary relief but there is no cure for pain and loneliness.

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