Practice for Death

The “Practice for Death" is sometimes called a meditation or sometimes a poem. It came to me in a dream. In the dream Ginny, one of my teachers discovered that cancer had returned to her for the third time. Her children and husband were wildly, furiously, desperately trying to soothe her and help her. They were all maddened and struggling hard to make the truth of her illness go away. I was in the room, in dreamtime, but invisible, watching.

Ginny tried desperately to get them to stop. When nothing would make them leave her in peace, she called to me to take her away. So in the dream we moved out of her house and floated into a beautiful green garden. Ginny lifted her arms and an emerald green silk robe came down from the sky. She grabbed the tails of it and wrapped it around her.

She looked at me with a deep thorough peace and said “Thank YOU”. She stood still with her arms crossed over her chest and began to say all the words in the “Practice for Death” - one line after the other. When she was finished, she looked at me again and said, “Tarron, this practice is yours. IT IS YOUR WORK.” And with that she kissed my cheek and disappeared.

I woke, sitting straight up in bed with a feeling of gratitude and dread. I wrote the words down without lifting my pen and went back to sleep. The next morning I called Ginny to tell her my dream. When I told her, she asked me, “What kind of dream is this?” And I said, “Well, it’s both a teaching dream as well as a foretelling dream.” Then she told me that indeed the cancer had returned and her family was having a much harder time with the information than herself. 

She had been my dream teacher for many years. We were both silent for a few moments realizing that the foretelling was both about my work and her illness, and that the teaching was for both of us.

Now I use the “Practice for Death” as a teaching tool. We learn through the practice to support each other, surrendering completely in the way we would most like to die. Each phrase in this practice is complete in itself and each line resonates differently and stronger for each of us. We select one or two phrases and these are said into the left ear of the person who is practicing their death. 

People report that the phrases are relieving and heart opening. Some say they have never known until this practice that the right words could be so healing. 

In Sanskrit, these phrases, these short meaningful kernels of truth, are called “Pith” sayings. When we use one of the lines in the practice, we are on our own restorative inner journey. We come to know each phrase and it’s importance for healing, surrender, rest and release for ourselves and others.

During the later phases of active dying, the hearing is the last sense to go. It is important to remember that what we say during this time is of the highest importance and can be healing and elevating to the spirit of the person departing as well as family. Using the “Practice for Death”, or specific phrases, can be one of the most meaningful caring modalities we can offer nearing death and dying.

- Tarron Estes