The presence of death makes us humble; life is enhanced and regarded as a gift. However, the death of a loved one or the simple recognition of human frailty may lead to despair and doubt.
We have to understand the special needs of both the dying and the bereaved. The dying mourn their own deaths as they anticipate the completion of their lives. The bereaved mourn the deaths of their loved ones. The natural process of grieving to express loss can be encouraged along to its completion in both cases. Expression of such emotion is a healthy reaction, testifying to life’s significance.
And this is the Comfort of the Good,
that the Grave cannot hold them,
and that they live as soon as they die.
For Death is no more
than a turning of us over from time to eternity.
Death, then, being the way and condition of life,
we cannot love to live,
if we cannot bear to die.
They that love beyond the World, cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can Spirits ever be divided
that love and live in the same Divine Principle,
the Root and Record of their Friendship.
If Absence be not Death, neither is theirs.
– William Penn,
Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693
Death often faces us with the most difficult of questions, yet it may be the occasion of our most profound insights into the meanings of life. As we try to surround the bereaved with love and care, God’s sustaining power can bring to all concerned not only courage but a transforming Truth about death and life itself. Although life instinctively avoids death, death is not the opposite of life. It is essential to the ongoing, changing nature of life.
Let us spend time with a Friend whose spouse, near relation, or friend has died—praying, talking, and planning meals together, taking care of children, arranging finances, and otherwise being of comfort. In order to prepare ourselves for death—our own and that of others—it may be well for meetings to discuss its religious and practical aspects. The local memorial society is often a resource in this connection.
We have a history of celebrating a Friend’s life in a memorial meeting. It is a valuable and comforting custom to gather to remember and honor loved ones who have died. Our sympathy and affection for Friends who are in sorrow is expressed in quiet, dignified procedure, adhering to simplicity and avoiding excessive expense. The overseers, or ministry and counsel, help Friends to arrange a meeting in which attention is focused, not upon a lifeless form, but on a living spirit and radiant faith. The section, Memorial Meetings and Funerals, in the Practice and Procedure part of this book describes these meetings [link to this section]. The family might wish certain friends to take part in a memorial meeting or request short readings and music. Attenders are free to give brief messages. A loved one has left; we rejoice that this Friend has been with us.