I am a Paraclete. There. I said it.

When folks ask me what it is I do, it’s tough to answer. It’s not easy to understand in a word or two, like ‘doctor’ or ‘lawyer’ or ‘priest.’ So I’ve been on the hunt for a word that sums it up.

I serve the living and dying and death and the funeral or memorial, and after that too.

I help people cross a bridge that has always been pretty darn scary, when someone is dying or dies. I call it the Death Bridge. But these days, many no longer use the traditional maps of established routes (church, ministers or priests, etc.) – so where do those people go for a sense of direction on how to make this transition? I can help.

I am a Death Paraclete. It’s an ancient Greek word meaning ‘called in to help.’

 

par·a·clete

[par-uh-kleet]

noun

1. an advocate or intercessor.

2.  the holy spirit; the Comforter.

image001
paraCLETE, not paraKEET

 

I walk alongside people who are on a journey and need help. (And about that holy spirit part – that’s how the word has been used for a while but it means more. I’ll get into that another time.)

I help people through an inescapable transition – death – in their way, not someone else’s. I believe in empowering them to make choices and decisions that are aligned with their own values, beliefs and lifestyles. It could be working with the parents to prepare ceremonies and practical matters for a dying child. Or a funeral or memorial for someone who has already died. Or folks who just want to make darn sure they have their affairs in order so they have peace of mind that their wishes will be carried out.

I walk alongside them as comforter, advocate and guide, helping people get from one side of a bridge to the other side. I put guideposts in place as much as possible to carry them on into their new, changed lives after a death.

I do this by listening, asking, and reflecting what matters to them – not to me.

Many people are ‘spiritual but not religious’ – and often, when there is a death, they have nowhere to turn except to clergy and funeral directors. Churches and funeral homes are places with known maps and procedures, and the appropriate choice for many.

But more and more, people want modern, green, and personal choices.

Right now I am working with a young couple and their months old son, who won’t live long. They are spiritual and reverent, loving the Earth and all her gifts, loving their child and family – and could not see how to proceed in a way that brings beauty, harmony and the possibility of transformation into what lies ahead.

Stepping Stones on Birch Creek at Glen Helen, Yellow Springs, Ohio

But they knew that kind of path was there, and they sensed they could get through the transition in a mindful, intentional, and hearts-wide-open way.

As we worked together, they found that this was true. We created ceremony to help define the key points – the big stones lying in the river they were about to cross. In their case, it was:

  1. preparing themselves, their family and friends, and their home
  2. releasing their infant
  3. the passing
  4. directing their own home funeral vigil
  5. the cremation
  6. planning and giving the Celebration of Life ceremony

…and all the little details in between. Our work together brought a compass, a steadying focus as they worked out a way forward.

That’s how I help, by illuminating the path ahead and helping people pick a careful, tender way across.