Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Prayers for Events of a Longer Life

So you've just signed an "advanced directive," maybe at your lawyer's office. You know, that's the  legal statement that spells out under what conditions you simply want to be allowed to die.
You head home and realize that this is not an ordinary moment that has just taken place. It's a powerful moment, one in which you have truly confronted the understanding that you are mortal and that your life will end.
Should there be a ritual for such a passage? A prayer or some kind of marking of this event?
Well there is, and it is just one example of an effort to bring spirituality and meaning to new transitions emerging as we live longer lives.
That's the mission of Rabbi Richard Address of Jewish Sacred Aging, whom I heard speak recently.
Here's one prayer for the signing of an advanced directive, among several others found here.
Rabbi Address on weekly radio show  

Blessed is ...God who has given me the power of choice and who has brought me to strength to make these decisions today.
Thank you for granting me the wisdom to think ahead and to understand the great range of possibilities that could come in the future.
When my time comes that I am no longer able to make decisons on my own behalf, may my wishes be carried out by those who are close to me.
I have been blessed with so much. May my family be at peace with my decisions. May we support one another through good times and bad. May we love one
another and cherish our time together. 
What about a prayer for the decision to enter hospice?
How about a blessing that a  widow or widower might say when they finally decide to take off their wedding ring and seek companionship again? 
Or what about a blessing that a married man or woman might want to receive to lift the feeling of guilt for seeking a relationship outside their marriage because their own spouse, long afflicted with Alzheimers, no longer recognizes them? Very controversial from the point of view of organized religion, but that doesn't mean that clergy aren't hearing such requests from their aging flock.
Rabbi Address attributes this change to the Boomer generation, who are essentially saying, "I'm undergoing life stages that I never thought I'd go through.  I want my Judaism to speak to me about this to give it some sense of foundation."
Imagine, what the new ritual for taking off a wedding ring is like,  Rabbi Address said.
The widow or widower enters the synagogue and quietly stands at the alter where he or she was married and where their spouse's funeral began.  Maybe a few friends are there to witness the moment, maybe adult children. Or he or she might be alone with the Rabbi.

This precious ring you slipped  on my finger as we stood under our chuppah, I took to my heart as a continuAous circle of love. 
It remained a symbol of our unity as we held our babies, celebrated our milestones, and soothed our hurts. 
A witness to all of our married days, it was once new and shining. With the passing of years, the color deepened and warmed as did the exquisiteness of our life together. 
Now I am without you and I must move to another way of living. I must begin a new life. As I remove this circle of love, I know it is not easy to let go and surrender into memory what once was and can no longer be. 
As I heal and go forward, I will always be strengthened by a life we cherished and that part of my heart that is forever yours.

Are other religions facing the same issues and seeking ways to  recognize these moments in a spiritual way?
Are there other events for which you'd like to see a ceremony or have a prayer?
I'd be curious to hear.

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