There are times in life when we find ourselves face to face with an uncooperative death. A death that has not come as we might have wished. Peacefully, at a leisurely pace at the end of a long life, where surrounded by loved ones and recognizing a spirit come to gather them beyond the veil, they close their eyes to eternal sleep. That is not always the way of death.
Too often, and certainly in the days of pandemic, loved ones sit lonely by hospice bedsides, comforting the terminal, in ICUs by beeping ventilators, or worse, alone in the quiet of their home unable to attend to the sick for their own safety. It is in these spaces that we attend the sedate. The sedated. The silent. Those stubbornly clinging to life long after the possibility of survival has slipped by, as days or even weeks drag onward. As a deathcare worker, and as clergy—a High Priestex of Gardnerian Wicca—these are truly the hardest moments. There have been so many of my nights in the last year spent comforting someone who wasn't ready to let go—those to whom the dying cling, needing to know that they have the permission of their loved ones to go when it is time.
And so, for those who find themselves a part of that reluctant night's watch, waiting for a phone to ring, or the beeping to end, this is a way for the living to participate in those deaths. So that when it is apparent that the moment has come, they might welcome death to their loved ones bedside, and let go.
An Invitation for Death to Attend to the Dying
Please note that this is the sort of ritual that is perfectly adaptable to a situation in which you cannot be in the room with your loved one. If (for example) your extended family are unaware of your beliefs and you wish to remain closeted, or perhaps your loved one has a communicable illness such as Covid-19 and you cannot be by their side for reasons of safety. Additionally, it is always my wish to encourage you to consider rites like these appropriate for all those whom we love, including companion animals.
Position yourself facing the West, at your loved one's side if possible.
We stand here now in service to death,
knowing that life must be winnowed to thrive.
This is a holy act we perform here:
To open the door for this one who is willing, to come to you.
This is an act of healing, a release from suffering, an end to pain.
To this one, with arms open to death's embrace,
the gates of life and death are just a passageway.
Their passage will be easy, but ours is hard.
None that we may know will ever be to us what they have been,
and nothing in all of knowing will ever replace them.
Whatever healing we may find, this loss will always be carried with us.
Bless now, oh death, our arms that would lift them to you.
Bless our hearts that grieve.
Reveal to us now the path to comfort, and the way to acceptance.
Let now (loved one) come to you,
knowing that we have been blessed by the gift of them.
Let them enter into peace.
Gift them the knowledge that they leave behind a legacy of love.
Those of us that remain will mourn them, we will weep,
But we vow also to laugh, and to celebrate this life that they lived.
Lead them now as they walk unerringly,
down the path that leads to what lies beyond.
Beloved one, though you are dying, you are not alone.
We stand here with you, and the beloved dead await you.
You go from love, into love, and may love carry you and open the way.
As is our will, so mote it be.