Death and Dying


Glorious Collect for Easter Eve


Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,

so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him;

and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection ;

for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us,

thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.



who died?


When death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

fall, leaves, fall


Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Emily Brontë





Any Christian whether living in the world or in the Religious Life, active or enclosed, is being called as was St Antony of old to go down into the most frightening places of world history. If we are really trying to live this life in Christ, we are called to go down into the work! situation of today, which is rapidly be­coming divorced from God. It is only in prayer that those truly given to God can face this awful sense of disintegration, and face it united to Christ not only in his Passion but also in the power of his Resurrection.

We have got to live now in and through the dying, in order that we may bear witness to the Resurrection life … If we live in this glorious perspective, we do not have to wait for the fullness of life after death. Life in God is here and now, experienced first and foremost through experiencing death. Do not be afraid to die, do not be afraid when you are overwhelmed by the sense of your own weakness and sin and muck and desolation. Let everything which is in you, and everything which is thrown up against you by the power of evil, be held in Christ’s healing power. Do not absorb it or be overcome by it, but let it in you meet Christ’s power to heal; let it in you meet this almighty power of God, so that in you the mess can be transformed, answered.


from a Conference given to the Community, Sunday in the Octave of Prayer for Unity, 1968



Quietus: The vessel, death and the human body

An exhibition by Julian Stair Winchester Cathedral Autumn 2013

FB friends will have seen some (not very good) photographs of Winchester Cathedral caused in part by a failure to take my specs on my journey ! However the main reason for the visit south was to see this exhibition and it did not disappoint.

Stair tests the boundaries of subject and possibility in ceramics – he reminds us that art has always had the ability to express the most complex of ideas. here is a response to that which many of us avoid or deny – death.  The word Quietus comes from the medieval Latin and describes the moment of transition when the soul is released from life into death.

In the cathedral we see gathered a range of funerary ware but all have a close relationship to the human body.  The vessels are beautiful and textured and colourful especially in the September morning sunlight. It was fascinating to see visitors reactions – some avoiding contact – other tapping the pots while an older couple sat and looked closely at the sarcophagi.

I wondered what it might take to make our experience of death more meaningful – how might we be more open about death and see it as intertwined into our living?

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These cinerary jars are designed to hold cremated  remains – a columbarium is the room set aside to pay respect to the dead whose remains are housed here. The jars are displayed here at a high level in the Cathedral sanctuary – thrown and constructed in different ways displaying individuality and colour.


These are familiar horizontal forms with lead lids – I (almost) found myself wanting to climb inside…………!

The picture at the beginning of this piece show monumental burial jars. These vertical forms make reference to a tradition known as extreme inhumation, a ritual where the body was place in the ground upright and fully extended.

An excellent exhibition and in such a prayerful space – thanks to the Cathedral and Stair for honest and earthed creativity.



The Essential Guide to Life After Bereavement

Beyond Tomorrow

Judy Carole Kauffmann and Mary Jordan

Paperback: £12.99 Jessica Kingsley Publishers

2013, 176pp
ISBN: 978-1-84905-335-8.



In pastoral ministry there are many encounters that remain in the memory of the pastor. These find their way to speak about human resilience, our encounter with pain, the occasional impossibility of resolving conflicts  and the need always to be open and honest about our needs. The death of a loved one is always traumatic and how this loss is dealt with during the first weeks of bereavement can often shape the quality of life for families in the years that follow. We need to embrace the vulnerabilities of loss and find help to discover how best to live with our mortality and the challenges of change.


On this journey we shall need skilled friends. Those who seek guidance about bereavement will find a good guide and friend in the pages of this book. It is written by two women who have deepened their emotional intelligence by listening both to themselves and others. They have reflected with care on what we might need when someone dies and organized this advice with care and great clarity.


It is organized into nine chapters. The first two handle the difficult subject of breaking bad news and this is followed by a further two that open up the subject of grief. The book deals with conflict (in families) in chapter five. There are also chapters on personal effects, memorials and anniversaries. Chapter nine looks to the future with a chapter entitled ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ which holds out the hope of reconstructing living in the face of loss.

There is an especially good resources section and the book is strengthened with the provision of an index.


The narrative of the text is grounded in experience with short reflections that earth conversations in the reality of bereavement. There are gentle but searching questions of the reader in the text. The writers have a gift for a concise and clear expression of thought.


My shelves are full of books on death and bereavement but this one will stand out as a useful starting point for someone who might benefit from support and advice in the shape of a short book.








one day a day woke up and

was sky, air, light

and itself. Later, evening

tapped my shoulder:

a reminder, a privilege,

a job to do. Record, it said

the elegance of the day’s decline,

and the perfect curves

of all that is left

of a tulip.


Denise Levertov

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