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Posts from the ‘Prose for Remembrance’ Category

Why Memorial Rituals?

As I cruised the web doing some research today, I came across the prose included below and must share with you. It is written by Cinder Hypkie and is excerpted from this compelling article. I’m continually exploring the healing nature of rituals for the dying and after death. I treasure this kind of a find! Her poem speaks volumes to what I bear witness to, within only a few tenderly conveyed lines. I agree with her observations.

Yes, we do enter ritual “to respond to the call of the soul” and our fearless response to the call “places us in a realm of experience that we could not enter alone.”


We enter ritual to respond to the call of the soul1:

To heal ourselves,

To pay our tribute

To honor our ancestors,

our fallen warriors,

our soft spoken heroes,

To encircle our children with love and hope for a future,

To stitch our neighborhoods together one honest connection at a time.


As artists and teachers and activists,

As would-be and sometimes wounded healers:

When summoned, we walk alongside, in humility,

Open ourselves to hear deeply,

Enter in to core matters of the heart.2

We tip the soul’s basket onto the table,

Offer possibilities for mutual healing,

bring into being acts of resilience and resistance.


IMG_3198So we build our ofrendas3 of rose petal and rosemary,

Mexican marigold and store-bought mums.

We pour our libations on the earth or the pavement –

From the waters of West Africa to the streets of Baltimore.


We paddle out into an ocean of grief,

Place a sea of flowers at the gate,

We spray the bike white,

Wrap a teddy bear tight around a pole.

Write a name in the sand, or R.I.P. Brotherman

On the wall of the rowhouse next door.

We sing a song they loved, draw a dove on their photo,

We sing and dance and eat and carry on,

Long, long after they are gone.


Art for remembering in a time of forgetting,

Art for asking: What is needed here?

Art for mending a broken heart

Finding our voice, our resolve, a new start.


Hush now, listen, and call their name.

Widen the circle; welcome them in.


Composed from research and interviews with community artists and activists by Cinder Hypki, 2011.
1 Quote by Malidoma Patrice Somé in Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community 1993.
2 Quote by Andrew Boyd, personal communication 2011.
3 Spanish: “altar,” “offering”


Summer musings

The closing line of this poem is one you might have seen before. For example, I have it on my personal email signature. Seeing life as wild and precious is a gift poet Mary Oliver gives us with each of her creations. I love her work, how it emphasizes the natural world and the cycles of life. I find myself including it often into ceremonies I write – either as alternatives for complete readings by a participant  – or just bringing in certain lines as motifs.

Have you heard her read “The Summer Day” before? If not, give yourself this gift and give a listen:

Here is the complete poem, too:

The Summer Day


Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of

up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


~ Mary Oliver

As we bid this year adieu

My heart brims over with gratitude to the families I’ve served the past year during times of anticipating, acknowledging and honoring loss with custom ceremony. As a Life-Cycle Celebrant® creating ceremonies at the end of life, I’ve held space for quiet and personal sunrise and sunset rituals. I’ve helped co-create festive gatherings to celebrate full and mature lives, as well as bittersweet remembrances to honor lives those closest felt were altogether too brief.

One consistently true thread – as I bear witness to the loss of people and animal companions alike – is this:

loss as a universal human experience

brings us closer to the fullness of who we are

AND who we may become.

(Or as John O’Donohue more eloquently puts it in the blessing below: “nearer to our invisible destination.”)


When we love, we open ourselves to impermanence and it’s omnipresence. Painful, yes. And yet through the muck and darkness, much like the roots of the lotus, we can find our way into moments of beauty. Ultimately, we can bloom and surprise ourselves as we bloom again. It takes work and time. Remembering a life with love and lightness in our hearts may take effort. I am able to witness and personally experience not only the pain, but the beauty possible in this, too.

So it is with this thread of acknowledgment to the families with whom I’ve worked, along with those in the future whom I’ve yet to meet, that I offer these stanzas from a blessing written by poet John O’Donohue:


As this year draws to its end,

We give thanks for the gifts it brought

And how they became inlaid within

Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter

with light from beyond themselves;

And from the granite of some secret sorrow

A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,

For all we loved and lost

And for the quiet way it brought us

Nearer to our invisible destination.

With this I offer you a sense of gratitude for whatever this past year held and hopes for a new year full of bringing you closer to yourself AND those you love: to abundance in living soulfully, strength in seeing the wholeness and connection to what is true.

My warmest wishes for a Happy New Year! ~ Kristine

To grieve or not to grieve?

I wonder sometimes. Our culture in the west seems to hold this notion that closure is necessary, and we ought to soldier on past a loss after only a week or a month. While working with families after a death has occurred, I put out the notion of grief as natural and individual, much like our own fingerprints. Everyone of us, I believe, grieves differently. And a common thread seems to be: it takes time.


This  past weekend I had sensations of my own personal grief upwelling; I acknowledged it and let it move through, remaining as porous as I could. I thoroughly felt my sadness – albeit painful – and thanked it at the same time for the honesty and truth it brings me. Likely no coincidence in how the next day, I went head long into working with a family to co-create a Celebration of Life for their father, brother, husband, and mostly — plain incredible and fun-loving-big-laughter-generous-hearted friend. I am always in awe of a family willing to share quiet reflection, tears, hilarious stories, and belly laughs with me while we step into the space of co-creating a custom celebration of their beloved’s life. The tears say grief is raw and present. The smiles and stories say grief moves through us, because somehow, the essence of those we love is imprinted within us indelibly.


I am deeply thankful for this work. As I’ve approached building this Celebration of Life from a well of gratitude today, I came across this poem and need to share it. I believe in grieving – in the transformative healing power it has when we open ourselves to it. And at the same time, I believe in what the Sufi poet Rumi shares with us here. I sense him asking us to pause. To listen to the world’s greater heart beat, in a way. When we do, we need not grieve. For it keeps softly thumping . . . and somehow the rhythm safely holds us. Always.


Don’t Grieve


By, Rumi



Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round

in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk

now drinks wine and honey mixed.


God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,

from cell to cell.  As rainwater, down into flowerbed.

As roses, up from ground.

Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,

now a cliff covered with vines,

now a horse being saddled.

It hides within these,

Til one day it cracks them open.


Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep

and changes shape. You might say, “Last night

I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,

a field of grapevines.” Then the phantasm goes away.

You’re back in the room.

I don’t want to make anyone fearful.

Hear what’s behind what I say.


Ta dum dum, taa dum, ta ta dum.

There’s the light gold of wheat in the sun

and the gold of bread made from that wheat.

I have neither. I’m only talking about them,


As a town in the desert looks up

at stars on a clear night

Night lights of Tucson on a clear night.

Tucson looking up at the sky on a clear night.

A Blessing for Parents

None of us want to face death – either of others or our own. The toughest kind of death may be of children though, especially when within our own family. I’m posting this blessing in honor of a family who lost their unborn baby this week. It is an experience I wish no mother or father, sister or brother would ever have to face. Words feel flimsy in these situations, yet may at some point during grieving, offer some kind of soothing relief.

For a Parent on the Death of a Child

Family of Great Crested Grebes. Two adults and...

No one knows the wonder

Your child awoke in you,

Your heart a perfect cradle

To hold its presence.

Inside and outside became one

As new waves of love

Kept surprising your soul.


Now you sit bereft

Inside a nightmare,

Your eyes numbed

By the sight of a grave

No parent should ever see.


You will wear this absence

Like a secret locket,

Always wondering why

Such a new soul

Was taken home to soon.


Let the silent tears flow

And when your eyes clear

Perhaps you will glimpse

How your eternal child

Has become the unseen angel

Who parents your heart

And persuades the moon

to send new gifts ashore.


Written by John O’Donohue and published in his gorgeous gift of a book: “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings”


Kindness and Sorrow

This piece of poetry gives me a very gentle pause. Every single time I read it.


Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

it is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye

Thank you, Joyce Kornblatt, for inspiring this post.

“Live Your Life”

Somehow today, this poetry reading by Mary Oliver just stopped me in my tracks. Her poem is “Mornings at Blackwater”. I am always tracking down resources for readings to include in my heart-crafted ceremonies. I love a gem like this one. Give yourself the gift of taking a moment and watching it/listening to her read:

“So come to the pond,

or the river of your imagination,

or the harbor of your longing,

and put your lips to the world,

And live your life.”

"The river of life : Vertorama"