Gift my Room with Your Presence*
Step over the threshold, my door is open. I may be dying; I may be ill. Enter as if you have never entered this room before, as if holiness awaits you. A new time zone, a new rhythm, a new hope. Walk in, leave behind what you know. Come to me with what you don’t know. Come with open heart; come with your own longings and dreams.
I dwell. In this place there is awe though it doesn’t appear so. This dwelling place is new. For time slows. Hurry no longer belongs. Time moves into timelessness. Pines have a deeper fragrance. Leaves a deeper green. And we have time to let them speak to us. We have time to listen to the wind, listen to stars moving their brightness into our hearts.
So in my room, learn to dwell. Dwell as if in paradise. How? Allow your mind to shine. Notice light and shadows, breath and stillness. Be the peace that enables us to companion each other on the way home. Turn to poetry, sacred texts, music, nature images, a peaceful silence supporting our journey.
We are on retreat together.
I invite you to be on retreat as I lie here for my last days, hours, months, even years. Bring your sacred self, the one that dwells in the beauty of Creation, the one that knows how to rest in meadows. Allow yourself to rest here in my room. Be eager to encounter the divine mystery.
Imagine what it feels like when you are on an actual retreat: you might go out into nature and bask in the sun or lie awake at night under the stars. Maybe you would be in a monastery and take part in Benedictine chanting with the monks. Maybe you would dance or ride the waves at a beach or fly a kite and clap your hands.
On your retreat you might ask: what do I need in my life that reflects meaning, goodness, joy of spirit? How can this dying experience teach me how to live more fully? What do I need to do to grow my soul as I watch the ending of one life and imagine the hope of another?
I ask you, my caregivers: How can my dying make your life richer? That is what I want for you.
Springtime & Reflections
Reflect on your acceptance or resistance to change. Know that I have these also. Help me not to fear change and the unknown, and at the same time, help yourself as we welcome the One who comes to take me out of this life. Whose hands are outstretched toward me, Death, the Giver of Life, assuring me that change does not mean oblivion. Death comes, not as demon but as bringer of a changed new life. Let us welcome this event with grace.
Yes, there will be times when dark shadows cross our path, grief grips us and we wish Death wasn’t here, we wish for flowers. Let this be so and may we also remember that grief is not all there is, that it is one sacred part of the whole. Grant me the courage to live in truth and in the midst of sorrow, sing. When it feels like we might drown in sadness, come to springtime in the death of this winter.
Imagine the resurrection of springtime in this room. It could be the day before Easter, the day before death is defeated by Risen Life. If you’re not Christian, you know about the death of winter, the resurrection of springtime. Waiting in the dark before the blossoming, waiting for the light of dawn to emerge out of horrific grief on a Cross, out of the grief of your own many losses. Waiting for truth to dawn IN us: Love is stronger than death. Love conquers all obstacles. Love triumphs beyond all our pain.
Our imaginary springtime journey takes us along a path of orange trees. White budding orange blossoms begin to bloom, their fragrance blessing us with good tidings. Tiny buds soon to blossom, alive in avocado leaves call us to pay attention or we’ll miss the moment of their birth. Will we miss the moment of our birth as our thoughts wander onto our problems, missing the moment to rejoice as those buds, as our lives, bring forth beauty into the world? Are we patient enough, diligent enough, to welcome the birth that is coming?
Further down the path, we walk among massive boulders, poppies, lilacs in their white wedding gowns. Those boulders cannot crush life being born among them. Death cannot crush me either. And those lilacs? They sing out: I will spring forth gentleness in the midst of these boulders; in the midst of a dry and arid land, in the midst of physical pain, I will burst forth into loveliness.
Will we be present to this living moment to burst forth into loveliness in our own lives? To be present to the pain of my dying, its grief, discomfort, and its hope? You, my dear caregivers, have a wonderful opportunity to practice staying awake while I might be sleeping or drifting, unable to be awake to your beautiful face and hands aiding me on my journey. My request: can you be as gentle as those lilacs amidst some tough moments in my life?
Use this time to bring beauty into my life and yours. Listen. The earth is singing in my dying hours. So remind me who I really am no matter what is happening in my body: I am a dancing spirit, a joyful soul! And so are you.
Emotional & Spiritual Healing
For My Caregivers: Springtime Flowers
There could be a time when it is difficult to let go of this life, to let go of a favorite doctor, nurse, friend; dreams not realized, desires not met. This prayer helps me and it may help you.
Joan Englander ©2019
Inside my spirit, emotions,
Imagine thousands of flower petals
floating through my body
coming to rest on my heart.
Tell me to smile
delight in their dance
fragrance of flowers all around
bathing me in silken yellows, lavender
Gardens blooming in my heart
before I die.
Gardens blooming in my heart
after I die.
Gardens singing fragrant melodies
Returning me Home.
Inspired by the poet Kabir
The Kabir Book, Trans. Robert Bly
*Joan Englander ©2019 Top of page
Preparing for death is preparing for life, a circle of inspiration. Instead of denying death, by letting death come in, a divine beauty is born. Aversion is replaced by the thrill of Love. I recited these Rumi verses to a dying friend. I want my caregivers to recite them to me as well when I am in need of inspiration.
Rumi and My Caregivers
“I have seen death with his face.
Heard death singing with his voice…
No one ever sees that last moment…
But if they did, they would hear
The sea singing.”
“Our death is our wedding with eternity…
For he who is alive in the Light of God
The death of this carnal soul is grace…”
For my caregivers: The Singing Sea*
Guide me to hear the singing sea.
Encourage me to go to my wedding with eternity.
Say to me, Joan: (use the name of your loved one)
You are alive in the Light of God;
You are alive to receive his marvelous light.
Joan (Name of your loved one),
You are alive in his marvelous light,
A light that sings and calls you to the wedding banquet.
Wear the finery of your heart wrapped in love;
Be crowned with the singing sea that does not drown, but saves.
Go into the sea of bliss, for you are alive in the Light of God.
Note to caregivers: This last line can be a breath prayer:
Breath in: Sea of bliss; breathe out: Light of God
Rumi when dying, recited to a friend who came praying for his recovery:
“Why should I be unhappy…
Because each parcel of my being is in full bloom?...
Oh bird of my soul, fly away now,
for I possess a hundred fortified towers.”
For my caregivers: Help me Fly*
Assist me in being fortified
with the gift of letting go
of this body, this cage.
Allow me a glimpse into a world
beyond, a world where nothing is
feared, resisted or raged against.
Every moment let me cling
to Divine Joy, my Beloved.
Encourage me to fly into songs
Rumi goes on:
“…And as you lower me into my tomb, do not say,
For the tomb veils from us the union of paradise.
My decline you have seen, now discover my soaring
Would setting cause any harm to the sun or moon?
To you, my death seems a setting, but really it is
Does the tomb seem a prison to you? It is the
liberation of the soul.
Has any seed been sown in the earth that has not one
Why doubt? Man also is a buried seed…
Keep your mouth closed over here, to open it over there.
So that beyond space may thrill your song of victory.”
For my caregivers: A Thrilling Victory*
Can death be thrilling?
In this body, it could be an agony.
But let’s look to the thrilling songs
Of the soul. Let’s go to a place
Where candles light up the sky
Inside my drifting thoughts
Inside a melody victorious
A freedom song received by heaven:
I am accepted, I come in radiant joy
To a place my mind cannot conceive,
To a welcome exceeding any on earth
To the Love welcoming me home.
Remind me of this thrill
when leave-taking becomes difficult
when I forget what my journey is for:
a victory into liberation.
Remind me to trust this passage
Not as a dreaded disease
but a new dawn of healing.
See my descent and ascent:
grace and going, grace and going,
grace and rising, grace and shining.
Remind me, remind me, lest I fall into
Temptation, depression and fight
against the tide pulling me out to sea,
into the arms of my Beloved
Allow me to hear the whisper “let go, let go”
as I enter the thrill of singing without end
a singing wind
a singing spray of ocean mist
a singing voice of my Beloved
covering me in gentleness and peace.
For My Caregivers: Hear My Confession:*
Greater than flying away into ecstasies
Greater than claiming victory
I bow in humility.
I regret what I did that wasn’t pure and life-giving.
I didn’t love enough
I forgave yet not enough
Even now I am forgiving still
Even now I pray to love more.
In spite of this is The Gift
Love washing over me
A continual embrace
Ever faithful, always with me
Through my days and nights
Accepting me as I am
Inspiring me to love, forgive, heal.
My beloved companion
Allows me to be without shame
In his Love without end, I thrive.
*I wrote these passages when reflecting on Rumi’s poems about dying. Quotes are taken from The Way of Passion: A Celebration of Rumi, by Andrew Harvey; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, NY,NY 2001.
 Pp 270,  Pp 281-282,  Pp 289,  Pp 297-298
Guide for Caregivers
Create Your Own Caregiver Guide*
Is it possible to be inspired when meeting your own death even before you die? I found it to be true for me. This journey is about tending the soul. What inspiration could you or I leave behind as a legacy during our dying days? Would anyone be touched, inspired with unforgettable moments? We don’t know. But it can make the journey of going into the unknown less frightening, more creative when we contemplate ways to create and thereby enjoy the journey.
My intention when writing to my caregivers is to guide them now while I am well, before difficult days may come. I begin talking to them on the page. Maybe you would like to try this for yourself or a family member? While we can’t control how our days unfold, we can participate in them, put some energy into inspiring others who take care of us.
What would you like to tell your caregivers before they are present in your life? You may want to journal your response. How would you express gratitude for them?
Introducing The Guide
The core concept of this guide is to invite friends, caregivers, family into the room of a person needing care as if they were coming on retreat. This image sets the tone for being present to one who is ill, depressed, isolated, even at peace and dying. The retreat also sets the tone for every day life, ways to tap into spirit and creativity. It is a time for shared intimacy, for reaching higher than the bondage of bodily sufferings, to find inexpressible, unexpected moments of joy.
Preparing your caregivers ahead of time can be a great gift to them. If you have not prepared them, they may know nothing about your values, spirituality, preferences. In creating a guide, your reflection on what inspires you to feel free, unafraid, alive with joy in the present moment helps them. What makes you feel whole and healed? This preparation may also apply to the vulnerable person in bed.
My spiritual quest has taken me to both Eastern and Western cultures. From the Judeo/Christian side of my journey comes reflection on scriptures and Psalms. From the East, Rumi, Kabir,Tagore and many others. Who and what inspires you?
Naming Your Journey
I titled my journey, My Last Dance, because at the age of 5 I couldn’t stop dancing and this continued into my 80’s. What will you name your journey, a name describing a core expression of your life? If you had one more chance at something you love, or a memory that stands out as expressing your life’s joy, what would it be? That one thing is the name you may choose for the title of your journey.
Blessings be upon this journey we take together.
Rendezvous with Death
Thirty years ago I had an experience in Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s aging workshop. He gave an experiential exercise, Facing Your Mortality. Today my version is called: Embracing Death, An Inevitable Journey. In discovering how to have a relationship with the end of life on earth, we grow into moments of joy, acceptance and hope.
Themes for inner reflection may deepen your time while sitting with your friend. It may also deepen your relationship with your inner self. You may decide to write your own reflective themes, use mine or seek inspiration from contemplative books that offer questions to awaken more of your soul life.
What would most serve your journey into the unknown? Make an intention to find something meaningful for your last days or those of your friend, something that shines a light on who you both are and what you value.
If you are sitting by a bedside for many days, weeks or months, The prompts given here are designed for a long journey. No need to rush or explore every one. And no need to do them at all. You may simply rest in the deep silence of waiting. Waiting as a peaceful Presence by the bedside.
*Joan Englander©2019 Top of page
Creating a Healing Atmosphere*
Deep peace, a wonderful surrender, relaxing into a smile, into comfort and confidence: this could be you or a friend in bed needing healing. Healing of body if you are ill; healing of mind, emotions or spirit if you or your friend is dying.
Sometimes as a visitor, you may not know what to say or do, especially when someone is dying. Anxiety, lack of focus, chatting with other visitors about mundane events, takes you away from giving full attention to the one in bed. For this reason, I invite you to focus on blessing your friend in bed as you bring beauty, hope and quietude to the bedside, no matter how difficult the circumstance.
The image of being on retreat sets the tone for focusing on healing for your friend and for yourself. You can make this room vibrant with love.
Proclaim the Goodness of Your Friend’s life
Akin to writing your own or your friend’s obituary, writing a one page portrait of the person in bed makes personalized care a possibility in care homes. It helps nurses relate to a human being and not simply another body. How would your friend or even yourself like to be known by others? Tape the written portrait on the wall behind the bed or on a board hung near the bed. Or laminate and put it in a conspicuous place. Know that by doing this, deeper connection, relatedness, and better care could be the result.
Blessing Your Caregivers
It is good to develop a heart of thanksgiving before needing caregivers. It may be difficult to express this later. When help becomes necessary, we can take this gratitude note with us. Gratitude may ease the stress of the strenuous work caregivers experience. Such work deserves our tender response.
Gratitude for Caregivers
A Note of Thanksgiving
Thank you for accompanying me on my journey and being willing to share your own. Together we grow as two trees, planted on earth and reaching toward heaven. In our heart’s core, heaven awaits us singing, urging us to wake up, know joy and the miracle that is now.
Let’s journey together and help each other. Let’s learn how to love even when loving isn’t easy. Let’s remember that Love is the center of everything when our eyes see through the lens of tenderness and light.
Be both of these for me and forgive me when I may not shine as brightly as is my heart’s desire. Forgive me when I am impatient, ungrateful, bossy and resisting.
It’s all a passing shadow, a welcoming of clouds on our way to clear blue: clear heart, clear mind ready to receive God’s Love.
Joan Englander©2019 Top of page
Die before I Die*
Die Before I Die
How am I living through these last days, months, years? Dying into life and living into dying is pure mystery. In one hand, I hold the cup of sorrow; in the other the cup of healing. I hear this voice:
“I am a dancing soul moving from life to life, shore to shore. Unstoppable, undefiled, glorious in joyful abandon.”
When I am afraid, lonely or in pain, remind me that the essence of who I am is beyond this physical body and this thinking mind. Do as Rumi teaches: keep me from dwelling on what is perishable; keep me dwelling on that which is everlasting. Bodily and mental trials are but a brief moment in what is otherwise a dance of freedom. Sing to me this reminder:
“I am a dancing spirit, I am a joyful soul.”
Rumi shows me the way to live, to move through trials. He awakens:
Longing for the Beyond
For a lovely bliss unfettered
For an eternal flight of freedom
To fly, sing and whirl.
Rumi Speaks: Come to me without a sound:
“I’ve had enough of sleepless nights,
Of my unspoken grief, of my tired wisdom.
Come my treasure, my breath of life,
Come and dress my wounds and be my cure.
Enough of words.
Come to me without a sound.”
Dying into Wordlessness
How and when do I prepare for death? I do it now though I may live much longer. I pray to give up my false self, beliefs that have held me in bondage; fear, anger, jealousy, mistrust, lack of forgiveness, lack of self-love. I’ve had enough of these unspoken and spoken griefs, of these tired wasted thoughts of self righteousness, judgment, condemnation; I’ve had enough of remorse, regrets, blame and shame.
Come my treasure, my breath of life
Free me from this false self
Aid me in dying into my true and lovely nature
Make of me a treasure, a life-giving breath
To all those around me may I sing with new life.
Come dress my wounds, all the impediments
Blocking who I really am and am meant to be.
Come Be my cure, be the One to give me courage
To release these shadows
By the power of your Love embracing me.
Rumi Speaks Again
“Why do you weep?
The Source is within you…
Behold the body, born of dust, how perfect it has
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?...
Plunge, plunge into the vast ocean of consciousness,
Let the drop of water that is you become a hundred
Lift My Spirit Up
Help me plunge into the Ocean of Love
Plunge into childlike wonder
Put my hand into the hand of my beloved’s
Sing away my fears
Trusting the way is sure and right
Trusting I will meet my Love at last.
Rumi Reveals Beauty
“That which God said to the rose and
caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty
He said to my heart,
and made it a hundred times more beautiful.” (III, 4129) 
This is what I desire
A beautiful heart.
Guide me to know my own heart,
the one without blemish,
the one that greets all things
with radiant fragrance
like the rose
You want to make of me.
Rumi quotations have been cited to the best of the author’s ability. If there are any changes to be made in citations, please contact the author, Joan Englander: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Inspired by Rumi (Mathnawi VI: 754-758) and Hazrat Rabia Basri (r.a)
"O Generous Ones,
Die before you die,
even as I have died before death
and brought this reminder from Beyond.
Become the resurrection of the spirit
so you may experience the resurrection…” Rumi
“… So beautiful appeared my death – knowing Who then i would kiss, i died a thousand times before i died.” Basri
 Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, “Come to me without a sound.” Trans. Coleman Barks
 The Way of Passion, A Celebration of Rumi, Andrew Harvey, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, NY, NY 2001
The Fragrance of Faith, The Enlightened Heart of Islam, Jamal Rahman, pp 115. The Book Foundation, Bath, England, 2004
*Joan Englander ©2019
Remember me when I Call*
Christian Caregiver Song
Enjoy singing or speaking this song originally written as a prayer, now a song composed and rewritten by Mary Davis.
Jesus My Heart’s Desire
Jesus, Beloved One of my heart,
Yours are the healing hands I long for.
You are the blessing within my soul,
The deepest center of my being.
So I offer my life to Your hands of healing;
As through darkness You walked,
As through darkness You died in,
Grant me to pass through this darkness with grace
As I die to myself to find life in You.
(As I die to this life to find life in You.)
Lift me into Your risen light,
Light of pure love, that has no shadow.
No shadow cast by Your turning away;
You’re ever with me, creating me new.
Copyright 2019, Joan Englander, Mary Gross Davis
Jesus, Awe of sacrificial love
Love willing to give up everything
To bring hope to a broken world
to our broken selves
broken for everyone; for me, you
all great beings that lived
before and after him.
As you did not resist your death
may I not resist mine
even as I may sorrow over leaving this life.
Whatever anguish I experience
may it be a sacred expression of
this small agony of mine offered up
for those who suffer so much more
may their trials be lessened.
May I never lose sight of holiness
contained within agony for
suffering brings alive your life story
yours and in some small way
Your story as it moves from agony
light given into a brighter light
than ever before
a healing for the world of tomorrow.
Standing at the foot of your Cross
I forgive. This is my prayer:
Remember me when I call.
Caregivers remind me:
“When you pass through the waters, they shall not overflow you, and through the rivers, they shall not overcome you. When you pass through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the fire kindle against you. For I am the Lord your God and I call you by your name. You are mine.” (ISA 43:2)
“I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” L’cha dodi. (Song of Songs 6:3)
Contemplative Reflection Themes*
1. Preparing To Let Go
Consider this guidance from hospice guide Frank Ostaseski when reflecting on letting go. “Look at the way you meet endings,” end of your day, end of a meal, end of a workshop, end of a relationship…This could be a journal entry day by day. What helps you let go? Watch your reactions and responses, resistance and acceptance. What resources within you and through the lives and writings of others, inspire and support you?
2. Who Am I?
Who are you beyond this body? Fill in your view of something larger than yourself; what gives you the feeling of awe; life in God, unity with nature, dreams, an after-life; however you express the inexpressible. Make this your own reflection.
3. What Lifts You Out of Body Consciousness?
What or who do you turn to that may lift you beyond physical or emotional pain?
What do you choose to dwell on that brings beauty and healing? Could you write your own daily prayer or meditation journal? Something you could turn to every few hours? Something that may also bless the one in bed?
4. My Retreat is Filled With:
Listening. In the quiet hours, enjoy the silence, begin with an inspirational phrase or watch your breath. Stillness may lead to dwelling on some part of your life that needs a deeper truth or a needed healing. Or your silent sitting may simply open you to a mystery that has no words. Dedicate your quietude as a blessing for the one in bed, an intuitive listening for what your friend might need.
5. How Do You Feel About Change?
How do you respond? What do you need to support your feeling good or to support the times you don’t feel good about it? Do you love the challenge or dislike the disruption? How do you deal with resistance? What allows you to give up resisting? What allows you to grieve? You may be inspired by some of the following poets: Kahlil Gibran, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, Mary Oliver, Maya Angelou, Dylan Thomas, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Rainer Maria Rilke. Also the mystical prayer poems of Thomas Merton, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, 13th Century Flemish Beguine, Hadewijch, St. John of the Cross.
6. Stay in the Present Moment
What do you do to stay in the present moment without ruminating over the past or worrying about the future? How do you release problem thinking and dwell in the Presence of peace?
7. What Needs to Die Out of Your Life?
Reflect on what in your life no longer serves you and what you need to do to release its hold on you.
8. Embracing Grief
Do you embrace grief? How? Do you deny or ignore it? What for you is healthy grieving?
What are the day to day ways you express love? How frequently do you love? What stands in the way? What inspires Love to shine in you? Here in this room, be open to a more expansive Love. Welcome this Love to guide the caregivers, helping them transcend exhaustion and burn-out. Inspire them with tenderness, mercy and compassion.
Do you frequently express gratitude for the gift of life, its living and dying cycles? How often during the day do you feel grateful? Watch your thoughts. If your thoughts are fearful or complaining, move your focus onto what is good and beautiful. Name what you are grateful for. You might write thank you notes to people in your life who touched you. This can be an end of life practice.
11. Personal Spiritual Journey
Write what your spiritual life means to you in your deep heart. Avoid superficial responses to what others expect your beliefs to be. Write what is true for you, freely, without judgment. Be bold, stand tall within yourself, allow your wisdom voice to speak.
12. What are your deepest resources when life doesn’t go your way?
Settle down into the quiet, allow a resource to come forth in writing a prayer or poem. Or read scripture and listen to your wisdom voice. What does Wisdom tell you about an important issue in your life? Do you find anything humorous about your situation in spite of sufferings? Look up humor poems online or write one yourself.
13. Poetry, a gift of soul
Do you enjoy poetry or do you think you can’t understand it? Do you find it too remote from your life? In the quiet hours, you may find that poetry opens your heart to wisdom and love. It can become an inner journey, not simply the poet’s expression alone but touching a deep core in the center of your being, an awakening to more of who you really are when you practice listening. Read a poem several times, stop to reflect on a word or phrase. How does the phrase touch you, speak to something in your life? You can make the poem your own. And speak a phrase silently or aloud for your friend. (see #6 for a list of poets or go online to find poetry themes to aid your reflection)
14. Honor your spiritual teachers
Who were the people who influenced you most for your highest good? A parent? A spiritual guide? The Presence of God in scripture? Take this time to recall a major life shift due to this influence. Write your gratitude to them and also for those who touched the life of your friend now in bed. Invite their spirits to come now into the room as a blessing for healing and grace.
15. Is there humor to be found in illness, dying or getting old?
Are you in touch with a humorous voice inside of you? If not, find humor stories or poems for you and your friend in bed. You cannot be expected to experience laughter when grieving is deep or your friend is actively dying. But there may be long periods of waiting and caregiving, being exposed to suffering and discouragement. At such times, there may be room for humor. When the situation feels heavy, when you know you carry a lot of tension, humor can offer a release.