A Beacon of Hope

New heels for old shoes.

Treasured hankies made white again.

Years ago at a spiritual direction ceremony (Shozan) one of the monks asked about compassion. How may I find compassion for myself? The Master answered something to the effect that she started by taking care of her boots! It is not such a stretch when you think about it. Being mindful of ones shoes and getting them heeled, bleaching handkerchiefs when they have become sad and grey is to treat them with respect and gratitude. If one treats things with that attitude surely it’s possible to treat oneself that way too. To have compassion for oneself, and all things.

Too often people regard themselves as having little worth and so gratitude fades to a flicker. Sometimes that flicker dissolves into dark despair and where there is no light there seems to be no hope either. A woman asked me after the recent funeral how she could convey a sense of gratitude to the deceased. I said I thought all she could do was simply offer her open heart and in that there is conveyed gratitude. Which is a beacon of hope.

So I guess we make offerings of tender care to the stuff around us including ourselves. Life is precious.

Timing is All

Conducting a funeral yesterday in a room 6ft by 8ft, containing seven people and a coffin presents some difficulties, but non insurmountable. Timing is all at these events especially when the body has to be moved across town mid proceedings. It’s the funeral directors we have to thank for ensuring everybody is in the right place at the right time. And to leave afterwards, briskly. Thankfully all went well with both the Funeral at the funeral home and the Memorial at the crematorium afterwards. Fifty, very sad, people attended.

Funeral directors perform a much needed service and they do it with dignity and firmness. Being sensitive to the potential wrath from those in charge I was keyed up to keep within our alloted time! At the last moment I discovered we actually had forty five minutes from getting everybody in to getting them out. Ceremonies happen one after the other in quick succession in busy Crematoriums so I guess that fifteen minutes ease room is there for over running or unforeseen circumstances. At the very last moment the director gave me his last and closely kept secret. The clock in the Crematorium is set five minutes fast! As it happened we were all done and finished in twenty.

One thing about death is that it is hard to predict timing. Funeral Directors are always on call to go and pick up bodies at any time of the day or night and in all possible conditions. They are often on the scene with the police and often the ones who first console the shocked and bereaved. They face death every day of the week, it’s their business. And they retain a sense of humour, behind the scenes.

Well, there is one creature, Oscar the cat, who has made predicting the time of death his business. In his innocence he is providing a service for relatives and friends so they can be present at the scene of death, before the Undertakers.

Helping Grieving Children

I’ve had cause to look into services which help bereaved children and their families. Winstons’s Wish based in the UK looks like a good one.

Fiona husband died by suicide in February 1996, leaving her to raise their unborn child alone. Fiona, from Halesowen, spent years investigating bereavement services and finally found Winston’s Wish, an organisation that could help Fiona and her child David, live with their loss. From a case study.

RD4U (road for you) is another service for bereaved youngsters.

RD4U is a website developed by Cruse Bereavement Care’s Youth Involvement Project which aims to support young people, after the death of someone close to them. We believe that the best way of doing this is to involve young people in planning, developing and delivering services.

Chanel4 made a series of documentaries titled A Child’s Life. One of them, Why did dad choose to die?, deals with the issues around child bereavement due to a parent committing suicide.

Many thanks to those who helped me to find this information this evening.

The Weeds Act 1959

Ragwort, love it then pull it up.

Under the Weeds Act 1959 the Secretary of State may serve an enforcement notice on the occupier of land on which injurious weeds are growing, requiring the occupier to take action to prevent the spread of injurious weeds. The Weeds Act specifies five injurious weeds: Common Ragwort, Spear Thistle, Creeping of Field Thistle, Broad leaved Dock and Curled Dock.

So says defra, Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

We have quite a crowd of guests here for the Summer Training Period. Each Wednesday morning for the next three weeks the monks and guests have the chance to join in a Community Work. Today we tackled the Thistles and Ragwort which are covering the fields above the monastery. None of us have ever seen so many thistles on the property and now I see we have injurious weeds. Indeed we do, lots of ’em!

I started with an ‘off with their heads’ attitude swinging away with a hoe. Quite soon I reverted to a more contemplative approach. They may be weeds, they may be injurious weeds however they too have the Buddha Nature just like you and me.

Sing no Sad Songs


When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

I found the above Song, by Christina Georgina Rossetti, in my new found book of treasured sayings, advice and teachings. At the moment I’m making preparations for a funeral on Friday which will be in a town a couple of hours drive from here. This poem brings reminders of a soft acceptance of death. Perhaps I’ll read it at the cremation.

No Sad Songs has a wealth of poems suitable for Funerals, Memorials and Cremations.