The sweet sound of Cherry Steinberg’s flute welcomed the online audience of 80 who attended the first of two Zoomed Shining Light on Death workshops, facilitated by Nirmala Ragbir-Day, Spiritual Care Training Co-ordinator at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Nirmala explained the aim of the two workshops was to explore how Covid-19 has impacted people’s lives, created challenges and prompted methods of coping when in the presence of someone who is dying.
The speakers at the workshop were Mike Gartland, Head of Pastoral and Spiritual Care at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Dr Sarah Eagger, Chair of the Janki Foundation and a certified Mindful Self Compassion teacher who, as a leading psychiatrist, is an advocate of a values-based approach to healthcare and healthcare education. David Goodman, a trustee of the Janki Foundation, gave an introduction to the charity and the work it does.
Mike began by reading When Death Comes by the American poet Mary Oliver. He went on to speak about the immortality of the soul, the imaginal realm, about the stories people tell themselves about their own lives and how myth and poetry ‘speak’ a language of profound depth.
Mike then quoted from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.
“At the centre of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely … I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is every- where.”
Sarah then spoke on the non-visible and sacred aspects of death and dying, mentioning respect for belief systems; the fact that everyone dies in a different way; death bed phenomena; coincidences; the awareness of approaching death, and the human need for love, acceptance and nurturing at the natural closing of the cycle of life.
The session concluded with a few minutes of questions and answers and a meditation.
To watch the video of this event – please click here