Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

Spiritual Deepening

Grounding Exercise

Queries for Aging, Death, and Dying

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  1. Explore your thinking on aging, death and dying with these queries and questions for reflection. Many exercises can be followed with a discussion or worship share with these queries. 

    Do I need help now in preparing for my death or decline? Do people close to me need that help?

    Death often comes by surprise, interrupting lives in the midst of life's progress. What if I should die before I wake? If I knew my death was imminent, how would I devote my remaining time? Should I do any of that activity now, or on a daily basis?

    Am I prepared to meet my Maker? What do I need to do or feel now, to be ready for death? Can I accept that I did all that I did, and can't undo it?

    Is there someone, or are there others, whom I would like to help prepare for my death, physical decline or incompetence? Do I want to approach them to offer that help? If so, how?

    Are there others in my life who tend to deny the prospect of death, and need my attention to make them more aware of the planning and other activities that need to take place before my passing, or theirs?

    If I died today, would I have any regrets? What would I have done differently to avoid regrets? Can I do something now to reduce or eliminate those regrets?

    Do I give myself and others enough space and opportunity for forgiveness to take place genuinely?

    Are there things I can do now that would ease the experience for those who would suffer or be burdened in the event of my sudden death? Are there words of comfort or pieces of information that I can prepare in advance to help those people with their grief or their new responsibilities when I die?

    Are there matters that I want to communicate with others before I die? “In hospices they talk about the five things that need to be said to a loved one: thank you, I love you, please forgive me, I forgive you, and goodbye. The good news is that you can start saying the first four anytime.”

    In what kind of relationship do I want to be with others before I die? Are there conflicts that I want to resolve, or people I want to forgive or be forgiven by? How can I restore more healthy relationships with them?

    To what extent do I want my nearest and dearest to minister to my needs if I have a long final illness or other incapacitating disability? If outside help would be needed and can be afforded, should it be through home care, assisted living, or a nursing home?

    How would I describe a “good death”? What are my hopes and fears for my own death? Is dying at home instead of a hospital important to me?

    Do I want to be with one or more of my nearest and dearest as I die? Do I hope to be able to say goodbye?

    What has been meaningful to me in my life? How am I giving support to that meaning? Have I communicated those priorities to those people who had a close connection with them, who might survive me?
    How would I like to be remembered? What can I do or feel now to create that memory?

    Are there other jobs I need to do before I die? What are the most important loose ends that should be tied up before I die or become incapacitated? How important are they? What jobs can I let go?

    Do I feel burdened with my material possessions and their disposition upon my death? Have I communicated effectively how they are to be distributed and used? Would parting with some more of them before my death be helpful?

    How can I develop a sense of completion about my accomplishments? Can I let go of the uncompleted parts of my life? Can I mentor others to fill in the gaps that would be caused by my death or disability? What can I do now that will make letting go easier or better?

    In what contingencies would the quality of living become more important to me than the quantity of life?

    What forms of life-preserving care would I be willing to accept? Would I want to be able to control my pain in my last illness? Are there circumstances in which I would not want to have painkillers administered to me? If I needed painkillers that deprived me of consciousness, would I want to have an opportunity for trials of withdrawal and painful consciousness?
    If faced with an incurable terminal illness, would I want to be treated for secondary conditions that could kill me if left untreated?

    How can I let go of fear of death, in myself and in others?

    How can I accept death and living as they coexist in me?

    Do I want to have special elements in the ceremonies following my death?

    How else do I want to prepare for what follows my death? For me? For others?

  1. In 1993 the Langley Hill Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends convened a working group on concerns with death and dying. This group immediately discerned that its concern was not with the Meeting's procedures invoked by an attender's death, but rather with the spiritual challenges of preparing for death, either one's own or another's, and of recovering from the death of one for whom one cares deeply. They agreed that the roadside sign, "Are you prepared to meet your maker?", was not enough to guide our preparations for transition to death, and they united on a quest for helpful queries. The result of their effort to help focus seeking on this topic is reproduced above.  Planning for End of Life Events