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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in death and dying
PaganNewsBeagle Faithful Friday Sept 26

Happy Friday, Beagle-fans! Today we have a bouquet of religious stories starting out with one about not being religious. 7 varieties of unreligion; Hindu Goddess festival begins; teaching children values depends on politics and religion; selfies of Sikhs; Pagans on death and burial.

This story from Salon posits that there are seven kinds of unreligion (including pantheism, which is awfully close to many Pagan beliefs to my way of thinking, and maybe shouldn't be considered "unreligion" at all.)

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PaganNewsBeagle Fiery Tuesday August 26

In this Fiery Tuesday installment, we feature many communities: the Pagan response to Ferguson, Mo; creation of a peaceful community in the heart of Oakland, Ca; tiny houses for the homeless in Portland, Or; the death-with-dignity discussion in Britain, and a new generation of Native American female activists.

The Wild Hunt's Crystal Blanton interviews many Pagan activists on the subject of the situation in Ferguson and its implications.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Robin_Williams.jpgLike many astrologers, I took a look at Robin Williams’ chart last night, because I found myself wondering what sort of a man he was underneath the tremendous talent, what pressures he was currently under, and also to consider — again — the personal and cultural realities that can drive people to take their own lives. (If you want to follow along, the chart is here.)

The first thing that jumps out from his chart is the preponderance of planets at the top of the chart, a southern hemisphere emphasis (yes, when you are looking at a chart, the southern hemisphere of the chart is on top. Just put yourself in the center of the chart, as if you were going to cast a circle. Face East, toward the Ascendant. Now face South. Yep, there you are.) A large number of planets in this area of the chart generally indicates someone whose life is inextricably entwined with the collective, often to the point where their personal will is subsumed in the needs and desires of others. This is, of course, often the case with celebrities, especially those who, like Williams, tend to be deeply emotional and empathetic. And that’s the second thing that jumps out at us about this chart.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Diotima
    Diotima says #
    You are more than welcome, Gabriel. I'm glad the post was meaningful to you. Thanks for commenting.
  • Gabriel Moore
    Gabriel Moore says #
    I have always been a big Robin Williams fan and always will be. Thank you Diotima for writing something that celebrates him as a p

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
A Hospice Reflection

I recently heard about the death of Morning Glory Zell, a beloved member of the Pagan community. My first thought on reading about her death was sadness. So many elders within our community are leaving this world. I never knew Morning Glory but I had heard about her and I have read about her life and contribution to the Pagan community and always held her in admiration. Since her death I’ve read many endearing posts on various blogs about her life and work and I’m not going to attempt to mirror those endearing posts; however, upon reading about her death it evoked within myself several emotional reactions that I wish to share with you today.

Working as a hospice chaplain I experience death and the prospect of death on a daily basis. Before I started working as a hospice chaplain I was a chaplain resident learning the finer nuances of chaplaincy and before that I worked as a consulting minister at a Unitarian Universalist congregation. This reflection starts when I was working as a consulting minister. There was a member of that congregation who was suffering from multiple myeloma a type of blood cancer. Her diagnosis and battle with cancer was all pervasive for her and her husband. When I read that Morning Glory died of multiple myeloma I thought about this woman. What really comes to mind is my own inadequacy in trying to help her process the grief associated with her illness and the ineffectiveness of my attempts to minister to her and her husband. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to bring comfort and I certainly didn’t know what to say or learned the value of silence.

I left serving that congregation shortly after I graduated from seminary and moved to another state to start a chaplain residency program. As is typical when a minister leaves a congregation I distanced myself from the congregation to give them time to get used to being without my presence and seeking their own way (since I left they have hired a new consulting minister). This distancing still haunts me today.

While serving as a Chaplain Resident at a Catholic hospital in West Virginia I worked primarily on an oncology unit and therefore I had a lot of exposure to patients struggling with cancer – including multiple myeloma. I was being trained in the finer points of chaplaincy and I was ministering to people with cancer. A couple of months after I started the residency, at about the time I was starting to “get it” as a chaplain, I received an e-mail indicating that the woman from the congregation I had served had died and she had been dead over a month. Once I found out I immediately called her husband to see how he was doing to which he said to me over the phone, “Oh, now you’re calling me.”

When I was serving that congregation I didn’t know how to effectively minister to the dying. I did the best I could but I always felt it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what to say. What to do, or how to comfort them. I was a bundle of anxiety because I was unaware of just how to provide comfort to the dying. By the time I made that condolence call I knew how to effectively minister to the dying and I found myself much less anxious around death and dying, but it was too late for me to be a source of comfort to him and certainly it was too late for me to comfort her. My opportunity had come and gone. I felt horrible for days after that phone call. I feel like I had failed him while I served that congregation and I felt even worse that he thought I didn’t care and that was why I hadn’t called. I’ve acknowledged these feelings and use them to empower the work I do now since I finished the chaplain residency and now work as a hospice chaplain.

As a society we’re not prepared to deal with death and dying. It’s easy to post “hugs” on Facebook but it’s rough being in the room with someone who has terminal cancer. I learned to be comfortable with silence. To feel okay with not saying anything and to live in that uncomfortable place that the living find themselves in when confronted with the dying. To be able to point out the obvious, “This is a horrifying experience and you’re scared,” with genuine compassion while refraining from saying, “Oh, it’s going to be okay. I’ll light a candle for you.”

I remember an incident when I was a chaplain resident. I had visited with Tom (I will call him Tom, not his real name), a cancer patient, several times and he would often be depressed because his home was over an hour away and his wife had to work and wasn’t able to be with him very often. I had probably visited with him on at least three occasions over the months I was there at the hospital. On one occasion, the last time I saw him, I got a call from the unit’s nurse asking I pay him a visit. I walked into his room and his wife was there. He seemed pleased she was with him; however, she said to me, “The doctor was just in and he said Tom has two weeks to live.” We started talking and I listened to what they had to say about the final prognosis of his cancer. Finally, I said to them, “You have two weeks left. What are you going to do with those two weeks?” She looked straight at me and said, “We’re going to pray for a miracle. We can fight this.”

I looked at Tom. He was stoic. He had been battling cancer for ten years. The miracle was that he had ten years of life after his initial diagnosis. At this point their pastor walked in and I shook his hand and we exchanged pleasantries. I didn’t want to “step on his toes” so I said my goodbyes and passed the proverbial chaplain’s torch to their pastor. As I was washing my hands I heard Tom’s wife say, “Pastor Steve, the doctor was in and said Tom has two weeks to live.” To which Pastor Steve said, “What’s the Lord have to say about that?”

I walked out of the room feeling sad. I knew that Tom was conflicted and wanted to just spend quality time with his wife before he died and didn’t want to focus all of his efforts in prayer for a cure when he knew that wasn’t going to happen. But his wife’s anxiety was too much to accept and there was nothing they could do and that the fight was over.

About an hour after I left their room I got a call from the nurse to visit with them again, they requested my presence. I went back to the room and Pastor Steve was still there and Tom’s wife said, “The doctor was in again and suggested Tom go onto hospice care.” At that moment there was some silence with all eyes looking at me to which I said, “Two weeks. Make that time count, how are you going to spend that two weeks?” Pastor Steve jumped in and said, “We’re going to pray for a miracle. The Lord answers prayers so we’re going to pray.”

I felt powerless in this situation and I felt sad. I felt sad for Tom. He wanted to just spend quality time with his family. He was tired and didn’t want to fight the inevitable. But he was surrounded by highly anxious people who didn’t want to accept his death was coming soon. At this point in my interaction with Tom his pastor turned to me and started making small talk. He was uncomfortable with Tom’s condition that he didn’t want to enter into it with him so he made small talk with me. Eventually, I realized there wasn’t much more I could do so I said my goodbye and that was the last time I saw Tom.

In my work as a hospice chaplain I’ve said many final goodbyes. Each patient and their family are unique and it is a blessing to be able to minister to people at the end of their lives. Recently, our community has had a lot of deaths. Death is a natural transition and yet it has given me an opportunity to reflect upon life in general and my own life in particular. From what I have read on-line it appears that Morning Glory Zell had a “good death,” surrounded by people who loved her and at peace with her illness. I hope this is true because this is my hope for the patients in my care, that I can help them have a “good death” and to be at peace.

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  • David Oliver Kling
    David Oliver Kling says #
    Thank you. It is my hope that I did some good for Tom, but his wife was having difficulty with her own grief and that became a ch
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    What a beautiful piece. Thank you for your honesty about your struggle to come to terms with dying, which is a part of life. I am

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Missing our baby

I just closed the books on April, and it was financially my most successful month ever in the entire history of me. Yes, of course, I'm ecstatic about that, and there are still a couple last minute people sending me their checks today, so May will start off with a huge boost. Money's great, and having a lot of it "is one less thing" to worry about like Forrest Gump said. But my happiness is fleeting, as our beloved furbaby Tiger died last week, early Thursday morning. This is what I posted on my Facebook page:

Please forgive me, but I won't be on FB today. I don't even know how I'm going to function. I've got leases to prepare and sign, and I have showings. At least those aren't scheduled until later tonight when I will be a little more "with it". I don't think I have anything scheduled tomorrow, and I'm going to keep it that way.

Tiger passed away suddenly just an hour ago. He's been in and out of the vet's office the past couple of months for that weird eye thing, going on different meds, and he seemed like his old self just last week. Even gave the vet the "what for" last week. Today though - he took a turn for the worst. Not eating. Hiding in corners. Panting. We knew it was his time. At least his last meal was the juice from a can of tuna - his absolute favorite.

He was going to be 14 in August. For a cat as sickly as he always was, that's a pretty good run. He's always been sick - since the day we got him from the inside leather jacket pocket of that crack head who stole him from his mother - eyes barely open. I had to feed him formula like an infant crooked in my arm, give him a damp wash cloth bath, teach him how to use the litter box and wipe his bottom. Just like a mother would for her human infant.

I'll never forget that tiny little head peeking out of that guy's pocket, begging us to take him home with that tiny mew. Even though I'm allergic to cats, we knew we had to at least try to help him, and luckily, he was young enough for me to adapt to his dander (if he had any yet). In fact, it's going to be very hard for me to have another cat because of my allergies. (Drug addicts: Please don't get any ideas.)

It's true what they say too: There's that one deep sigh and then... gone. At least I was lying next to him on the floor, stroking his fur and holding his paw. I'm thankful to have had that. It was quick.

We have him wrapped in a soft blanket with his favorite toys in his carrier, waiting to take him someplace for a proper cremation. (Yes, we have a plastic liner, too, and he's in the coolest room. And, we have the heat off.) I want to get him a Bast urn and place him prominently on the mantle. We're calling the vet first thing in the morning to find out what to do. His unconditional love all these years deserves that. I made good money this month with more still to come, and all of our bills are paid except plate registration renewal. It's the least I can do.

He may have been a mean son of a bitch to everyone else, but he was a gentle little baby to us. He even tried to defend our home when we were robbed, having found him locked in a bedroom. He got a good chunk out of them for sure. He has always had problems, and the last of his nine lives finally got used up. Some people say it's just a cat and do not understand. He was our baby, and I already miss him terribly.

Good bye, Sweet Face. Pretty Eyes. Handsome. Friendly. Mr. Magillicuddy. Tiger. And every other name we've ever given you. Mommy will always love you. Daddy, too. And Ryan misses you a great deal, too.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_July13dump-585.jpg

On Wednesday, I placed a soft blanket on my lap.  I invited my cat to be comforted. His breath was labored. His body was clearly shutting down. The will to live is stronger than any other emotion or drive. He wanted to live. He was bewildered. He knew he was losing the battle. He collapsed on the blanket, took two long inhales and let out a long moan that was the end of his life. The sound of death is perhaps unlike any other. The sound of that sigh – I cannot describe. Poetry has no language here - my words utter only stupid rhetoric. To experience this is more than can be expressed, but I try. I try because it is vastly important to me to know what death is and to not hate life for its cruel finality. Right now, it is difficult to feel peace with this life. I struggle to understand why - despite the ache of the body and the deep, known suffering - the will to live is so strong. When he passed, it was not like some say, this ethereal light leaving. His eyes shone bright. His body, warm. It was my light that diminished. My eyes were those that shut, unwilling to see the end. I could not sense the sweat and blood, or hear the hum of awaiting insects near the dirt that would cover him.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Aleah, I am sorry to hear of your loss. I just lost my own kitty, and know how it feels. I also commend you for selflessly using y
  • Paola Suarez
    Paola Suarez says #
    It's been awhile since I've read something reminding me of my dearest Ginger's sigh as she died. How you can't really describe it
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    This was a beautiful meditation. I appreciate your experience and thank you for sharing it.
  • William Welsh
    William Welsh says #
    I also have walked a path very different but oh so similar to that of you, my sister Aleah. We must be strong and ever seeking the
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you so much for these beautiful and honest words.

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The Sorrowful Magdalena

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you for this post. Blessings on your continued dance with The Magdalena in her sorrow and her joy.

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