(You may view the video montage of these words here).
What has it meant for you to be aware of mortality?
How can it be a help to you?
How can awareness of death help us
In letting go
And letting grow
As we need
For the sake of the greater flourishing of our lives and our souls?
2. Ecclesiastes 9:1-10
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them. All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.
This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your spouse, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
3. When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
When death comes like the hungry bear in autumn; when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse to buy me, and snaps the purse shut; when death comes like the measle-pox 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.
4. Psalm 90: 1-6, 12
Sovereign of the Universe,
you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away; they are like a dream— they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
5. From “Into the Silent Land: The Practice of Contemplation” by Martin Laird
“Communion with God in the silence of the heart is a God-given capacity, like the rhododendron’s capacity to flower, the fledgling’s for flight, and the child’s for self-forgetful abandon and joy. If the grace of God that suffuses and simplifies the vital generosity of our lives does not consummate this capacity while we live, then the very arms of God that embrace us as we enter the transforming mystery of death will surely do so. This self-giving God, the Being of our being, the Life of our life, has joined to [Themselves] two givens of human life: we are built to commune with God and we will all meet death.”
5. Beloved of God, remember you are from dust and stardust. And to that you shall return.
In full awareness of this unchanging truth,
may you let go and may you let grow
as you need for the sake of the greater flourishing of your life and soul.
Arise in peace and go forth to love and serve.