A Litany for Loved Ones Nearing Death

 In liturgy

This is a small paragraph from one of the sections of my memoir that I’ve been thinking about today.

I pass Whitehall when I’m going into town to see my granddad at the nursing home. Like the porcelain shell of my papaw’s body, emptying of light a little more everyday, the church has been dying for a while now. I remember well the years when they both lit up. Slowing down, I pass its cream door and the orange windows that I used to find repugnant, old-looking. I see the fellowship hall and the dilapidating picnic tables that once held all the marshmallow salad you could eat. Unfolding my fingers from the steering wheel, I reach out toward my Aunt Kathryn’s grave just across the street. In seconds, I’m recalling how the church pooled their money to install a sound proof window just so my cousins and I could have Sunday School.  Echoing over about twenty-five years is the tune of my Mammaw and Aunt T singing a duet of “I Love to Tell the Story.”

I feel inclined to share this as I’m coming off of a weekend of visiting my grandfather. Between my husband and me, we still have six living grandparents in North Louisiana and East Texas. We’re lucky that Bridger has learned their faces and had chances to spend time in their company, but much has changed; and this is no more evident than within the walls of the nursing home. I’ve written a litany to reflect on the feelings that some of those changes bring about.

Here it is.


A Litany for Loved Ones Nearing Death

Thank you infinite God for being in all ages and in every season–outside of time and within it simultaneously. 

You’ve been present among our people as far back as we all can be traced, partnering with every generation in a continuously unfolding story. 

And though this life be brief, it is grace-filled. What a gift. 

We ask that you calm our paralyzing anxieties about the unknowns of life and death. 

And grant us affection for the hidden beauty in such weighted realities as impending loss. 

Help us to tune into the themes of resurrection in your world and embrace the sacredness of our own mortality. 

We speak the name of our loved one who is nearing this road’s end. 

You knitted them and gifted them to the greater human story and to the days that we now hold so dear. 

For the dinners, the jokes, and the holidays we have shared, we give you thanks. 

For how they are forever sewn into the fabric of who we are, we offer our gratitude. 

For the lessons taught, tales told, legacies built of the good and the complicated, we ask for your guidance to know how to hold it all. 

And we ask that you grant them comfort from pain, and relief from depression, and release from control. Give joy and peace in the days that blur together. Rally a community to surround them in their going as they once did in their coming.

When we have few words and our visits are accompanied by a heavy chest, we pray for your help to be grateful for what was, and is, and will be. And we ask for opportunities to make new memories though the circumstances be ever so different. 

As they straddle this world and the next in that strange existence of between, help us to warmly accept the mystery of how they can be both here and there. Not deteriorating, but instead growing into death–the next chapter.

Today, we sit in the dirt that they toiled, or bake the dish that they shared, or speak the stories that they loved. 

And we decide again to light our candles though wicks run out and flames are fleeting. 

Thank you for the warmth that we have had while we have had it with this person. 

Until all is made right in creation, we hold out hope for reunion and restoration. 

In the name of the Resurrected Christ, 


  • Cynthia Haynes

    This is written so beautifully and with insight! Most of us have traveled this journey! I remember in graphic detail my day with my grandparents when I was young! The smell and feel of them gave me such comfort as a child! Thank you for sharing such personal and heartwarming thoughts! ❤️❤️Cynthia

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