CliF Notes

A curriculum for families and small groups

 

Note: Some of these sessions involve activities which require advance preparation, such as inviting guests for the final session on hospitality. You will want to read through all of the sessions before the beginning of the month to make sure that you have time for (simple) preparations.

 

May 2019

Week One – May 5th      

Death

 

Supplies Needed: Doll—not a child’s favorite, and smaller is easier than larger. If you have a variety of Barbies (available cheap at your local thrift store) you can use several dolls, which is preferable to re-using one.  Red or orange strips of fabric to simulate fire, sesame or sandalwood oil, birthday candles, snacks, bowl of water, small pieces of cloth for washing, white cloth for wrapping doll (x2 if using multiple dolls), flowers or fake-flower lei (available from party stores), box doll will fit in for coffin (need three if using separate doll for each version) brick or bricks for pyre

  

Opening Words  

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering

Gathered around chalice or lit candle, as everyone to focus their eyes on the flame of the candle. Watch its movement, its color, its shape. Now, blow out the flame. Ask participants to silently reflect on where the flame goes when it goes out. Before much time has elapsed, have participants close their eyes. Do they still see an image of the flame even after it is gone? Close with: “Our lives are like the flame of the candle. Death extinguishes us, but an image of our lives remains in the hearts of everyone who has known us.”

 

Introduction

Back in September we began this curriculum year talking about rituals, the ways that religions celebrate and honor important times of life, like birth or coming of age. But one of the most important life transitions is one we haven’t talked about yet: death. Religions have different beliefs about what happens when people die, and different customs for honoring the person who has died. Of course, nobody really knows for sure what exactly happens after we die, since no one comes back from the dead to talk about it. Here is a story from India about a long ago person who asked the question, “What happens when a person dies?” and the answer he got.

 

Story

A Musician and His Trumpet

In the long, long ago, a certain soldier went to Kassapa, a great teacher of India, with this ques­tion: "What is it that happens when a person dies?"

In order to answer the soldier's question, Kassapa told this story:

In olden times a certain musician, carrying his trumpet under his arm, stopped to rest on a bench in the market place of a small village. He laid his trumpet down on the ground beside him. Nobody else seemed to be anywhere around, for all the villagers were at home having supper.

Being lonely, the musician picked up his trumpet and began to play. He blew it three times, and then set it on the ground again beside him.

When the villagers heard the trumpet blowing, they were puzzled, for none of them had ever seen or heard a trumpet before. They said to one another: "What is it that is making that charming and delightful sound?"

They rushed out of their houses and gathered in the market place. There they found the musician. They asked him:

"Sir, what was it that made that charming and delight­ful sound?"

"Friends, it was this trumpet that you see lying on the ground here beside me that made that sound."

One of the villagers then picked up the strange instru­ment which had been called a trumpet. He looked it all over. He put it down on the ground again so that it stood up on its large round end. He called to it:

"Speak, O Trumpet! Speak, O Trumpet!" But the trumpet did not make a sound. Another villager turned the trumpet over and put it down on its side. He also called:

"Speak, O Trumpet!   Speak, O Trumpet!"   But the trumpet did not make a sound. Another man put the trum­pet down on its other side and spoke to it. Another shook it this way and that way and called. The crowd began call­ing too:

"Speak, O Trumpet! Speak, O Trumpet!"

But no, the trumpet did not make a sound. The trum­peter smiled and thought to himself:

"How foolish these villagers are! How can they hope to hear the sound of the trumpet by trying other ways to play it than the right way?"

Finally, with the villagers watching him, the musician picked up the trumpet and again blew it three times. After this he walked off with the trumpet under his arm, and dis­appeared down the path.

The villagers were left to think things through for themselves. Everyone began talking at once. Finally, they agreed on the right answer to their puzzling. This is the way one of the men explained it:

"When the trumpet was connected with a person who blew his breath into it, it made a sound. But when the trumpet was not connected with a person and no breath was blown into it, then the trumpet made no sound at all."

Kassapa then turned to the soldier and said: "It is precisely so with us and our bodies. When the body is not connected with Life then it can not walk for­ward or walk backward. It can not stand or sit or lie down. Then, too, it can not see things with its eyes, or smell things with its nose, or taste flavors with its tongue, or touch things with its hands. Then it can not understand with its mind. We say the person is dead.

"But when the body is connected with Life, the body can walk forward and backward. It can sit down and stand up and lie down. It can see things with its eyes, and hear things with its ears. It can smell with its nose, and taste with its tongue, and touch things with its hands. It can under­stand with its mind. We say the person is alive.

"When the Life and the body are together, there is a liv­ing person. When the Life is not connected with the body, the body is dead. It is just as helpless as a trumpet that has no musician to play it." The soldier then said to Kassapa, his teacher:

"What you have said seems clear to me and I under­stand, but I am still wondering. What is this Life that is sometimes in the body and sometimes not? Teach me more."

So the soldier stayed many days with his teacher. But the more he knew, the more there seemed left to wonder about.

 

Discussion

Do you think this story gives a very good answer about what happens when we die? What do you think happens when we die?

 

Activity

We can’t know for sure what happens when we die, but we do know some of the ways that different religions honor the person who has died through their death rituals. So we’re going to try enacting some different kinds of funerals for this doll.

 

Jewish:

The dead are buried as soon as possible. The body is washed to purify it, dressed in a plain linen shroud. The casket, a plain wooden coffin, remains closed after the body is dressed. The body is watched over from time of death till burial, as a sign of respect. The kaddish, a prayer in honor of the dead, is said.

 

Wash doll and wrap in linen cloth. Place in coffin. Say kaddish (see link for text) (Note: in Jewish tradition, this prayer requires a Minyan – 10 observant Jews, and is not said by people under the age of 13. You may wish to talk about this prayer rather than saying it, or make sure you only say it in English, not in Hebrew.) Bury box in sandbox, washtub full of potting soil or plot of land outside are that you are able to dig up. Bear in mind that you will need at least two burial plots if you choose to use multiple dolls.

 

Hindu:

Hindus generally cremate their dead. In preparation for cremation, the body is bathed, adorned with sandalwood paste and garlands, wrapped in white cloth, and laid in a coffin. In the cremation ceremony, the body is carried three times counterclockwise around the pyre, then placed upon it.

 

Wash doll and put in “coffin” box. Wrap doll in white cloth and then lei or place flowers in coffin. Anoint doll with sesame oil or sandalwood oil or other perfume for the sandalwood paste and place it in a box. Carry the box counterclockwise around the bricks for pyre three times and place box on “pyre.” Wave red or orange strips of cloth over the box to simulate fire.

 

Muslim:

The corpse is bathed, and wrapped in a plain cloth (called a kafan). The deceased is buried in the ground after the funeral service. Only burial in the ground is allowed according to Shari' ah (Islamic law).

 

Wrap doll in white cloth and place in box. Bury box in sandbox, washtub full of potting soil or outside area that you are able to dig up.

 

Christian (Protestant):

The body may or may not be embalmed at a funeral parlor to preserve it for viewing. At a church or funeral parlor a minister reminds those who have gathered of the expectation that the deceased will be with God in heaven and talks about the life and good qualities of the person who has died. Often there is the opportunity for those in attendance to view the body of the deceased. After the service mourners follow the body to the graveside to view the coffin being placed in the grave. Mourners may drop clods of dirt on the coffin, symbolizing the return of the body to earth.

 

Dress doll in nice clothes. Place in box. Invite anyone who wants to serve as the “minister” may eulogize the doll – several different ministers talking about wildly different lives is fine. Place coffin box in hole in sand/potting soil/dirt. Have “mourners” drop sand or dirt on top of coffin.

 

Buddhist:

The early Buddhists followed the Indian custom of burning the body at death. The Buddha’s body was cremated and this set the example for many Buddhists, even in the West. When someone is dying in a Buddhist home, monks come to comfort them by chanting verses to them, such as:

"Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age."

After death, while the dead person is being prepared for the funeral fire, the monks continue to chant in order to help the dead one’s good energies to be released from their fading personality.

The monks come with the family to the funeral. The family and all their friends give food and candles to the monks. Goodwill is created by these gifts and it is believed that the goodwill helps the spirit of the dead person.

Chant the verse above several times above over the doll. Simulate burning the body by waving red or orange cloth above it. Give birthday candles and snacks to all who chanted.

 

Closing

"Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age."

 

Week Two – May 12th     

Mother’s Day and Julia Ward Howe

 

Supplies Needed: Skit scripts and poster template below (copy for each person), crayons, markers or other art supplies for decorating posters.

 

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words  

Let us be at peace with our bodies and our minds. Let us return to ourselves and become wholly ourselves.

Let us be aware of the source of being, common to us all and to all living things….

Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be the cause of suffering to each other….

Let us practice the establishment of peace in our hearts and on earth.

--Thich Nhat Hanh (Buddhist teacher)

 

or

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

 

Check in

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in our life – something that made us happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.”

 

Centering:

Stand with your feet apart, your toes facing toward your knees. Take a deep breath in. As you breathe in, bend your knees, and bring your hands to in front of you. Continue to breathe in as you straighten your knees and circle your arms up over your head. As you breathe out circle your arms back down in front of you. Repeat three times.

 

Introduction:

Did anyone do anything special today for Mother’s Day? These days people mostly celebrate Mother’s Day by giving mothers cards or making them a special breakfast or giving them flowers or other nice ways of showing appreciation. Which is great, but actually, the original idea for Mother’s Day was something quite different. The original Mother’s Day idea came from Unitarian Julia Ward Howe, and this is her story.

 

Story

How would you feel if you became famous for something that you didn't even like? Pretty awkward, huh? That happened to Julia Ward Howe. You see, during the Civil War, when Julia was an avid supporter of the abolition of slavery and the Union cause, she wrote a song that became very popular. So popular that, nearly 150 years later, you've probably heard it. It's called "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", and the first verse goes:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

But what you might remember best is the rousing "Glory, glory, hallelujah" chorus. (You may want to sing this together.) Anyway, the song has a lot a trampling and smiting and assurance that God is on our side of the war. But, while Julia always believed in putting an end to slavery, she came to feel that war was not the way to solve problems. So she ended up embarrassed by her fame for writing a song that glorified war.

But Julia did more than get embarrassed. She decided that if anyone knew how to work for peace, it would be mothers, because mothers understood how awful it was to have your son or husband killed or maimed in a war (in those days only men were in the military). Of course, men care about their sons too, but in those days when only men declared war and only men fought in them, Julia felt that the women had a special role as peacemakers. So she created something called Mother's Day as a way to encourage women to work for peace. She wrote a proclamation full of strong language about how women should stand against war, and translated it into several different languages. In 1872 she travelled to England, hoping that with women in Europe she could put together an International Peace Conference. She wasn’t able to make the conference happen, but for several years she led the celebration of a Mother’s Peace Day in Boston.

The Mother's Day we now celebrate owes at least as much of its history to a woman named Anna Jarvis who just wanted a holiday to celebrate moms, but the history of women making peace is an important part of both the history and the present-day honoring Mother's Day.

Activity: One way to honor Julia Ward Howe might be to work for peace in your home or on the playground at school. You can be a peacemaker by figuring out how to solve arguments without having them turn into battles. After all, if we can't figure out how to solve conflicts peacefully with our family and friends, how can we expect whole countries to do it?

Here are some suggestions for settling conflicts peacefully:

Take a deep breath. Take another one. Have everybody take deep breaths until they are calm enough to talk and listen.
Have each person say what they feel. You can't argue about feelings—they are what they are.
Have each person say what they want.
Have each person repeat what the other person feels and wants. Brainstorm solutions. Come up with as many ideas of what might meet people's needs as you can. Then choose a solution and try it out.

Let’s give it a try with some skits. We’ll act them out, and then try to figure out how the people in the skit might be able to come to a peaceful solution.

 

A. “Give me a turn with the video game! You’ve been at it for five minutes now!”

B. “Just hold your horses! I think I’m about to get to level five. I’ve never done that before.”

A. “This is boring. I didn’t come to your house just to watch you play video games. Why did you even invite me over to begin with?.”

B. “Can you hush for just a minute? You’re messing with my concentration.”

 

 

A. “I call the front seat!”

B. “No fair – you got to sit in the front seat yesterday.”

A. “Yeah, but that was just as far as the store. That doesn’t count. Today we’re driving all the way to the beach.”

B. “So, it’s still my turn!”

A. “But I called it first!”

 

 

A. “I can’t believe you played with Sydney and not me last recess. I thought I was your best friend!”

B. “You are. But Sydney asked me to play hand soccer, and that sounded fun.”

A. “Well, you totally ignored me, and I didn’t have anyone to play with or anything to do. If you were really my friend you wouldn’t treat me like that.”

B. “Who says I can’t be your friend and Sydney’s friend too?”

 

Activity 2 (If you have time)

If there is time, children may wish to make posters to give mothers/parental figures, either decorating the following template, writing the words themselves or creating their own peace-themed artwork:


If there is to be peace in the world,

There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,

There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,

There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,

There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,

There must be peace in the heart.


 

Discussion What things do you most often have conflict about with your friends? What things do you most often have conflict about with your siblings (if you have any)? What things do you most often have conflict about with your parents?” Do you think the kinds of solutions you came up with for the skits would work with everybody, including friends, siblings, and parents?

 

Closing With older kids, read aloud or take turns reading from Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation:

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies.
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
will be too tender of those of another country
to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
that a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
and the earliest period consistent with its objects,
to promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
the amicable settlement of international questions,
the great and general interests of peace.

or, sing “Vine and Fig Tree”

Everyone ‘neath a vine and fig tree

Shall live in peace and unafraid.

And everyone ‘neath a vine and fig tree

Shall live in peace and unafraid.

And into plowshares beat their swords,

Nations shall learn war no more.

And into plowshares beat their swords,

Nations shall learn war no more.

 

Find music here.

 

 

Week Three – May 19th  

Rituals of Mourning

 

Supplies Needed: candle wax, wicks, double boiler, hot plate or other heat source, jars, votive candle holders or other forms, color and/or scent if desired. See candle-making resource below for more detail about options and supplies.

 

Note: If you are concerned about having time to complete this lesson, you may wish to read one of the stories and hold discussion while children are engaged in the candle-making activity.

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

 

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check-in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Invite participants to find a comfortable position, not touching anyone else, for a guided meditation. Say: “We’re going to begin by becoming very relaxed and quiet. Close your mouth, and make your mouth very relaxed and quiet. Settle your hands, and make your hands very relaxed and quiet. Quiet your feet. . . your ankles. . .your knees. . . your hips. . .. Make your middle and your chest relaxed and quiet. Relax your neck, and then your head. Imagine that you are sitting on the top of a green, grassy hill. You are sitting very quietly, with your hands in the shape of a bowl in front of you. It is warm, but breezy. Imagine that in the bowl of your hands you see a picture of something that is bothering you or worrying you…then the breeze comes along and blows that picture away, and it dissolves as it goes, taking that worry with it. Imagine that another image of something that worries you comes into your hands…and again the breeze blows it away and it dissolves. Now imagine that a picture of something you’re looking forward to—something that you can’t wait to happen—comes into your hands. You admire it, but it, too, blows away in the wind. You watch it go, but stay quiet, relaxed, living only in this moment, present fully to what is here and now.”

 

If you have time you may wish to discuss how it felt to let go of the things children were looking forward to as well as their worries.

 

Introduction

We talked a couple of weeks ago about different rituals that various religions use to honor people when they die. But many religions not only have rituals to honor the people who have died, they also have rituals for mourning, rituals that may be done well after someone’s death which provide a way for people to express their grief. However, not all religions take the same view of the place of grief in responding to death.  Today we have two different stories which demonstrate opposite responses when a loved one dies. The first is told as an example of the Buddhist ideal of non-attachment:

 

Story 1

Author: 

Guo Zheng at pureinsight.org (adapted)

The legend says that after Shakyamuni, the Enlightened One, lectured on the Way of Buddhism in Balrampur, all people in the city became noble, polite and wise.  They respected and helped each other.  The city of Balrampur was almost like paradise.

A non-Buddhist heard about this.  He traveled a long way to Balrampur to visit Shakyamuni to ask for guidance.  However, on his journey he came across something he couldn't understand.

Balrampur was in the tropical area.  There were many poisonous snakes.   When he was outside of the city of Balrampur, he saw a father and his grown son working in the field.  Suddenly a poisonous snake came out from the grass and bit the son.  The son died shortly afterwards.  The father was still working as usual. 

The non-Buddhist was surprised.  He asked the old man:  "Who is this young man?"

"My son."  
"Your son just died.  Why you are not sad at all?  You still work as normal.”

"What for?  Death is an element in life.  Now that the person is dead, if he is kind, there will be kind arrangements for him.  If he has behaved badly, the evil he has done will return to him right away.  What good can I do to the dead person if I cry?"  The old man looked at the stunned non-Buddhist and asked him:  "Are you going into the city?  Can I ask you a favor?"

The non-Buddhist agreed.  The old man continued:  "When you pass by the second house on the right after you enter the city, please tell my family that I only need one lunch and that my son is dead after being bitten by a poisonous snake."

The non-Buddhist felt very surprised.  How come the old man is so cruel?  His son died.  He wasn't sad at all.  Moreover, he didn't forget his lunch.  How come a father can be so cold?

The non-Buddhist found the man's house.  He told the old woman: "Your son has been bitten to death by a snake.  The father asked me to pass the message to you that he only needed one lunch."  The old woman thanked the non-Buddhist, and calmly called to a young woman in the back of the house, “Your husband has been bitten by a snake and died.” The visitor couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the young wife simply continuing on her business around the house.

He said to the younger woman: "Your husband is dead.  How can you act like nothing has happened?  Did you truly care nothing for your husband?"

The wife said calmly:  "Our marriage is like flying birds in the sky.  They rest together at night.  They go out their own ways to find food at the next dawn.  Every one has their own destiny.  It is his fortune that he doesn't have to come back once he flies.  I cannot replace him.  I cannot bear his karma for him.  We are like people who get to know each other on our journey.  We have to go our own ways sooner or later."

Upon hearing this, the non-Buddhist was very angry.  He even regretted that he had traveled the long journey to Balrampur.  He thought he would be able to find the truth because he heard people in Balrampur were most loyal to their family members.  He didn't anticipate that they were so cold-blooded.

Even so, he wanted to meet with Shakyamuni.  After all, it would be rather pitiful to go back without meeting the Buddha.  After he met with Shakyamuni, he didn't ask any questions.  However, Shakyamuni read his mind and asked, "What has made you so sad?"

The non-Buddhist said, "Because my hope didn't turn out to be true.  Things I saw are very different from what I imagined.  Therefore I'm sad."

"Sadness doesn't solve problems.  You can simply tell me what you are sad about."  Shakyamuni said to him compassionately.

"I came from a faraway place because I learned that people in Balrampur have heard your teaching and are kind.  However, once I arrived, I came across this ridiculous thing..."  The non-Buddhist told the story of the farmer family to Shakyamuni, and declared that in a Buddhist country he expected to see more love and caring.

Shakyamuni smiled and said to him, "It's not necessarily so.  What you wanted to hear and see was things within the principles of the human world.  However, sometimes the Dharma, the Buddhist way, doesn't have to follow the human nature.  The Dharma teaches us that nothing is permanent.  They knew that they couldn't forever keep their human flesh.  When a person dies, everyone cries loudly for him.  What good does it do to the dead person?  Happiness at birth and sadness at death are signs of the confusion that the world has towards life and death.  But the circle of life and death never stops."

After hearing the guidance from the Buddha, the non-Buddhist suddenly
understood.  From then on, he converted to Buddhism and became a
dedicated monk.

Discussion

What do you think of this story? Do you agree with Shakyamui, the Buddha, or do you agree with the traveler’s viewpoint that it would be unnatural, and even cruel, for people not to mourn when someone they love dies?

 

Story 2

In India, in the time of legend, there lived a king with many wives but not one child. Morning and evening for eighteen years, he faced the fire on the sacred altar and prayed for the gift of children.

Finally, a shining goddess rose from the flames.

“I am Savitri, child of the Sun. By your prayers, you have won a daughter.”

Within a year, a daughter came to the king and his favorite wife. He named her Savitri, after the goddess.

Beauty and intelligence were the princess Savitri’s, and eyes that shone like the sun. So splendid was she, people thought she herself was a goddess. Yet, when the time came for her to marry, no man asked for her.

Her father told her, “Weak men turn away from radiance like yours. Go out and find a man worthy of you. Then I will arrange the marriage.”

In the company of servants and councilors, Savitri traveled from place to place. After many days, she came upon a hermitage by a river crossing. Here lived many who had left the towns and cities for a life of prayer and study.

Savitri entered the hall of worship and bowed to the eldest teacher. As they spoke, a young man with shining eyes came into the hall. He guided another man, old and blind.

“Who is that young man?” asked Savitri softly.

“That is Prince Satyavan,” said the teacher, with a smile. “He guides his father, a king whose realm was conquered. It is well that Satyavan’s name means ‘Son of Truth,’ for no man is richer in virtue.”

When Savitri returned home, she found her father sitting with the holy seer named Narada.

“Daughter,” said the king, “have you found a man you wish to marry?”

“Yes, father. His name is Satyavan.”

Narada gasped. “Not Satyavan! Princess, no man could be more worthy, but you must not marry him! I know the future. Satyavan will die, one year from today.”

The king said, “Do you hear, daughter? Choose a different husband!”

Savitri trembled but said, “I have chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another. However long or short his life, I wish to share it.”

Soon the king rode with Savitri to arrange the marriage.

Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. But his father, the blind king, asked Savitri, “Can you bear the hard life of the hermitage? Will you wear our simple robe and our coat of matted bark? Will you eat only fruit and plants of the wild?”

Savitri said, “I care nothing about comfort or hardship. In palace or in hermitage, I am content.”

That very day, Savitri and Satyavan walked hand in hand around the sacred fire in the hall of worship. In front of all the priests and hermits, they became husband and wife.

* * *

For a year, they lived happily. But Savitri could never forget that Satyavan’s death drew closer.

Finally, only three days remained. Savitri entered the hall of worship and faced the sacred fire. There she prayed for three days and nights, not eating or sleeping.

“My love,” said Satyavan, “prayer and fasting are good. But why be this hard on yourself?”

Savitri gave no answer.

The sun was just rising when Savitri at last left the hall. She saw Satyavan heading for the forest, an ax on his shoulder.

Savitri rushed to his side. “I will come with you.”

“Stay here, my love,” said Satyavan. “You should eat and rest.”

But Savitri said, “My heart is set on going.”

Hand in hand, Savitri and Satyavan walked over wooded hills. They smelled the blossoms on flowering trees and paused beside clear streams. The cries of peacocks echoed through the woods.

While Savitri rested, Satyavan chopped firewood from a fallen tree. Suddenly, he dropped his ax.

“My head aches.”

Savitri rushed to him. She laid him down in the shade of a tree, his head on her lap.

“My body is burning! What is wrong with me?”

Satyavan’s eyes closed. His breathing slowed.

Savitri looked up. Coming through the woods to meet them was a princely man. He shone, though his skin was darker than the darkest night. His eyes and his robe were the red of blood.

Trembling, Savitri asked, “Who are you?”

A deep, gentle voice replied. “Princess, you see me only by the power of your prayer and fasting. I am Yama, god of death. Now is the time I must take the spirit of Satyavan.”

Yama took a small noose and passed it through Satyavan’s chest, as if through air. He drew out a tiny likeness of Satyavan, no bigger than a thumb.

Satyavan’s breathing stopped.

Yama placed the likeness inside his robe. “Happiness awaits your husband in my kingdom. Satyavan is a man of great virtue.”

Then Yama turned and headed south, back to his domain.

Savitri rose and started after him.

Yama strode smoothly and swiftly through the woods, while Savitri struggled to keep up. At last, he stopped to face her.

“Savitri! You cannot follow to the land of the dead!”

“Lord Yama, I know your duty is to take my husband. But my duty as his wife is to stay beside him.”

“Princess, that duty is at an end. Still, I admire your loyalty. I will grant you a favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

Savitri said, “Please restore my father-in-law’s kingdom and his sight.”

“His sight and his kingdom shall be restored.”

Yama again headed south. Savitri followed.

Along a river bank, thorns and tall sharp grass let Yama pass untouched. But they tore at Savitri’s clothes and skin.

“Savitri! You have come far enough!”

“Lord Yama, I know my husband will find happiness in your kingdom. But you carry away the happiness that is mine!”

“Princess, even love must bend to fate. Still, I admire your devotion. I will grant you another favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

Savitri said, “Grant many more children to my father.”

“Your father shall have many more children.”

Yama once more turned south. Again, Savitri followed.

Up a steep hill Yama glided, while Savitri clambered after him. At the top, he halted.

“Savitri! I forbid you to come farther!”

“Lord Yama, you are respected and revered by all. Yet, no matter what may come, I will remain by Satyavan!”

“Princess, I tell you for the last time, you will not! Still, I can only admire your courage and your firmness. I will grant you one last favor—anything but the life of your husband.”

“Then grant many children to me. And let them be children of Satyavan!”

Yama’s eyes grew wide as he stared at Savitri. “You did not ask for your husband’s life, yet I cannot grant your wish without releasing him. Princess! Your wit is as strong as your will.”

Yama took out the spirit of Satyavan and removed the noose. The spirit flew north, quickly vanishing from sight.

“Return, Savitri. You have won your husband’s life.”

The sun was just setting when Savitri again laid Satyavan’s head in her lap.

His chest rose and fell. His eyes opened.

“Is the day already gone? I have slept long. But what is wrong, my love? You smile and cry at the same time!”

“My love,” said Savitri, “let us return home.”

Discussion

Do you think that Savitri was admirable for refusing to let her young husband be carried away by death, or do you think that this story makes a mistake because it encourages people to try to hold on to their loved ones after they have died?

 

Activity

In the Jewish tradition, every year, on the anniversary of a loved one’s death close relatives light a special candle, called a Yarzheit candle, and say a special prayer. In many parts of Asia people keep family altars to honor deceased relatives which include  burning candles. In Catholic churches across it is traditional to light candles for loved ones who have died on November 1st, All Saints Day. We’re going to make our own candles.

 

See http://candleandsoap.about.com/od/candlemakingbasics/a/candlebasics.htm for information on making candles.

 

Discussion

In the Jewish tradition, for the week after a family member dies mourners don’t leave the house. They tear their clothes (or wear a black ribbon), and sit on low stools. Do you think that having rituals of mourning like these and the annual ritual of remembrance with the candle are helpful? Or do you think that the Buddhist story of not grieving and accepting death as just a regular part of life is a better way?

 

Closing

Words by Mary Oliver:

 

“To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

 

To love what is mortal:

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

 

And, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.”

 

Week Four—May 26th    

Celebration of Life/Memorial Services

 

Supplies Needed: story from link below, paper, pencils, square bar of soap per person; carving tools such as pumpkin carving tools, steak knives, awls, screwdrivers, etc. Alternatively, construction paper cut to the shape of a tombstone and markers or other art supplies for writing and decorating.

 

Opening Words and Chalice Lighting

We are Unitarian Universalists (shape hands fingers up to form two “Us”)

This is the home of the open mind (touch fingers to forehead and open out)

This is the home of the flaming chalice that lights our way to truth. (cup hands thumbs out and hold up)

This is the home of the loving heart (fold hands over heart)

This is the home of the helping hands (hold hands out)

Together we care for our earth

And work for peace in our world. (join hands amongst the group)

 

Or, for older kids:

 

In the freedom of truth

and the love of justice

We bring all that we are

to shape what we yet can be.

 

Or

 

In the light of truth and the warmth of love,

We gather to seek and seek to share.

 

 

Check-in:

You may wish to start this check-in time with the words “We are a family (or community). What touches one of us touches all of us, and so we take this time to listen to each person remember and share one thing from the past week that made a difference in their life – something that made them happy, or sad, or proud or sorry or grateful.

 

Centering:

Sing “I Know this Rose Will Open” by Mary Grigolia, #396 in Singing the Living Tradition”  You may wish to print the words out on easel paper

 

I know this rose will open.

I know my fear will burn away.

I know my soul will unfurl its wings.

I know this rose will open.

 

Find the music here.

 

Introduction

We’ve talked this month about how some different religions around the world use rituals to honor people who have died and to mourn their passing. But what do UUs do? What’s the Unitarian Universalist way of handling death? We’ll start to try to answer that question with a story (from uu&me! , the UU magazine for kids.)

 

Story

See http://www.questformeaning.org/oldsite/clf.uua.org/uume/0303/feelings.html

 

Discussion

Have you ever had a pet die? If so, did you do any kind of ceremony to honor that pet?

 

Introduction Pt. 2

Unitarian Universalists have different views about what happens when we die. Some UUs believe in reincarnation, and think that a person’s soul enters a new body so that they can keep learning. Some UUs believe that the energy of our souls joins up with the energy of all the other souls in the universe. Many UUs believe that when we die the only way that we live on is through the memories of people who loved us. But whatever their beliefs, most UUs have pretty similar ceremonies for honoring people who have died. It is called a memorial service, and the purpose is remember the person who died and to celebrate their life. Usually a memorial service is held at a church, but it could be at a home or a funeral parlor or even a park. There would likely be some music and some readings, but the central part of the service would be talking about the person’s life. A minister usually does what is called a “eulogy,” talking about the person who died and what their life meant to the people around him or her. Most often there is also a chance for anyone else who wishes to speak, to tell stories about the person or to talk about the relationship they had. It is a time for mourning that the person is gone, and people often cry, but it is also a celebration of the life the person lived and who they were, and it’s not uncommon for people to laugh as well.

 

Activities (select depending on time available and age of participants)

 

Have each person do a eulogy for someone else in the room, sharing a story that shows something good about them or telling about who they are and what they like.

 

Have each person write an obituary about themselves, imagining that they have died after a long life. They should imagine what they might have done during their life and what would the major things that someone might say about them. What job did they have? What hobbies? What special accomplishments? What family relationships? These obituaries can be as realistic or as imaginative as they like.

 

Have each person make a tombstone for themselves from a square bar of soap. They should choose a word or couple of words that summarize who they are. Use pumpkin carving tools, screwdrivers, awls and/or steak knives to carve the word or words into the soap (along with any decorative patterns they desire). Children too young to handle carving soap can alternatively write (have someone else write and they decorate) on a tombstone-shaped piece of construction paper.

 

Closing

Have everyone share aloud the word or words they chose for their tombstone (or, if you haven’t done the tombstone activity, ask each person to share a brief phrase that they would want on their tombstone).