“We prepare for the arrival of a new baby, we plan for it, we think about what we are going to buy and what we are going to call the new baby. It is part of our daily life, our conversation. Why do we not prepare for our death in the same way?”
Katherine Sleeman, Palliative Medicine Registrar, Cicely Saunders Institute
Knowing that our time is limited can be an invitation to seize each day and live every moment as fully as possible.
We hosted a series of online events in Autumn 2020 to help us see dying as something we can plan for and manage rather than something to fear and avoid discussing. In the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our programme of events offered an opportunity to explore how our approach to death, dying and bereavement has changed and generated some helpful resources.
Talking about dying makes it more likely that you, or your loved one, will have a ‘good death’ – to die as you might wish. We don’t have to be very old or ill or morbid to start. It does not bring death any nearer but a lot of people say that thinking about what they want for themselves, and for their loved ones, can be valuable and rewarding.
National Day of Reflection 2021 – 23rd March 2021
Millions of people have been bereaved since the start of the pandemic. Behind the statistics and whatever the cause, every death has been devastating for families, friends and colleagues. Many who have been bereaved have been unable to properly say goodbye to loved ones, comfort or even hug each other, leaving them more likely to struggle with the long term effects of grief.
Marie Curie asked for a day to come together to support those who have been bereaved, celebrate their lives and #UniteInMemory of everyone who has died during this time. The first National Day of Reflection was held on 23rd March 2021, the anniversary of the start of the first UK lockdown. Here’s Hannah Stone, our own Poet Theologian in virtual residence during 2020, sharing her wonderful poem “Unlocked”.
Revd Sue Rusholme, Associate Priest at St Matthew’s Church, Chapel Allerton, Leeds reflected on her own recent experiences through the Covid pandemic as the introduction to a facilitated discussion on Memorialising (and Funerals)
“Compassion with truthfulness” Revd Dr Chris Swift, Director of Chaplaincy & Spirituality at Methodist Homes (MHA), shares some perspectives on pastoral care for bereaved people drawn from his 20 years of experience as an NHS Chaplain.
Revd Dr Keith Albans, Superintendent of York Methodist Circuit and previously Director of Chaplaincy and Spirituality at Methodist Homes (MHA), shares a piece on Memorialising based on what he and his family did for his wife Helen. We are very grateful to Keith for sharing this very personal and moving testimony.
LCI Member, Revd Tom Lusty, shares a reflection on saints “both living and departed” inspired by a hidden treasure found in a secret drawer in the Church vestry: a lot of people’s signatures all carefully sown into a cloth.
“God of life and death, be present with us”: A prayer from Revd Jan Berry for a COVID-19 World. Jan Berry is the Principal of the Open College at Luther King House Open College based in Manchester.
Here’s an article from LCI’s CITYtheology magazine (page 5) by Revd. Tom Lusty, LCI member and Vicar at St Giles, Bramhope reflecting on ministry spent as a full-time hospice chaplain in the context of Covid-19. “Devoting a little space to reflect on our own dying (say ten minutes, once a week) will certainly make us more open to engage with others who may be starting out on the process of the end of life’s journey.”
The Rev. Michael Joncas composed and published ‘Shelter Me’, a prayer-song, in response to the global crisis of COVID-19. Spiritu’s members recorded the song from the shelter of their homes.
The Art of Dying Well offers practical and spiritual support to those faced with the prospect of death and dying. It was originally commissioned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and now belongs to St Mary’s University. “This site is not only for those who have faith, whether Catholic or not. It is for everyone.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Leeds Bereavement Forum is collecting a list of local and national resources which they hope will be useful for those affected by bereavement. The Forum also has a list of helpful books.
Here are 12 short videos from the BBC looking at how we approach and come to terms with death and dying, including this reflection from Dr Kathryn Mannix “Dying is not as bad as you think”
Full Circle Funerals has produced a free to access shared learning guide for those who provide support services to people who are bereaved during the coronavirus pandemic. It follows conversations with more than 60 Yorkshire celebrants, florists, hospices, care homes, bereavement counsellors, legal advisors and funeral directors to find out how they are adapting and meeting the challenge.
Books recommended by participants
Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal: Medicine And What Matters In The End