Death and Dying – Resources, Possibilities, and Pastoral Care


Grear Memorial Garden

Pictured above, Immanuel’s Grear Memorial Garden. Photo courtesy of Immanuelite Carol Huyler.

If you or a loved one have experienced Hospice care in recent years, you likely already know about the “blue book,” aka Gone from My Sight by Barbara Karnes, RN. During my time serving as a Hospice chaplain in seminary, I saw so much of Karnes’ wisdom in action and I am grateful for the way that she writes honestly, directly, and compassionately about end of life issues. As so many of us are pondering our own mortality and the mortality of our loved ones right now, processing any number of “what if” possibilities, I hope that this list of resources and considerations will be of some help to you.

(As a reminder, when planning for end of life issues, it is a good idea to speak with your lawyer, doctor, and family as you make decisions and come to better understand your own personal hopes, wishes, and plans. None of the following is intended as legal advice—simply as food for thought for you to consider along the way. Use what feels helpful to you and leave the rest!)

First, an excerpt from Karnes’ most recent writing about our current pandemic situation, which includes practical possibilities when you click on the full article below:

“I see families devastated by not being able to be with their loved one as they are dying. I am writing this for any person who is faced with a loved one dying alone in a hospital, nursing home, or some other place away from you. My hope is that some understanding hence comfort can be found among these words. This guidance can also be used by healthcare workers when they face the difficult job of telling families they can’t be present. These ideas can’t fix this horrific situation but they can bring a bit of understanding and “something to do” to an otherwise bleak message.

There are so many areas I want to address to neutralize some of the fear associated with dying. Dying is very, very sad but the actual moments before actual separation really aren’t that bad. Scary for us the watchers but not bad, as we perceive bad, for the doer.” Click here to read more!

More from Karnes’ series that could be helpful to you:

  • The Eleventh Hour: A Caring Guide for the Hours to Minutes Before Death
  • A Time to Live: Living with a Life-Threatening Illness
  • My Friend, I care: The Grief Experience

Here are some additional resources to inform your conversations and potential considerations:

  • Consider hosting a *virtual* “death over dinner” party (you can do these in person after shelter-in-place wisdom is l=no longer needed!). Here you can find video conversation starters, articles to read and discuss with family and friends, and you can easily craft your “dinner” conversation based on your hopes for that particular dinner. (You can also ask anyone who participated in our fall class on death and dying class about the kind of life-giving questions that we discussed in our small groups. We utilized a good number of questions from this “Death Over Dinner” resource!)
  • Ceremonies of Passage: Readings and Rituals to Enrich the Dying Experience (Hosparus, Inc.) Note: This work includes sacred passages from a variety of faith traditions as it was created for use in a variety of Hospice settings.
  • Dessert First: Preparing for Death While Savoring Life by J. Dana Trent
  • Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You by the Humane Society of the United States
  • The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief (written by Jan Richardson after her spouse passed– this book of blessings may be helpful for you or someone you love during grief after a passing)

Of course, this list is a very small beginning on a very large conversation—so take what you need, leave the rest, and keep searching and seeking resources that you can share with others too.

As always, feel free to reach out to me if you feel like you need a conversation partner as you consider end of life issues. Death is a part of life and these conversations can be incredibly life-giving for us and for our families! So let’s all brave talking more openly about what’s on our heart this week, and remember that your pastors are available to talk with you about preemptive grief, creative rituals to honor life, or simply listen as you work through what’s on your heart in your considerations. 

May the Spirit guide us in having these sometimes difficult, always important, and so often life-giving conversations about what matters deeply in our lives and within our hearts! Nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!


Rev. Katie Strednak Singer (she/her/hers) has served as Associate Pastor since July of 2016.  She came to Immanuel from south central Kentucky, where she served as pastor of Franklin Presbyterian Church for seven years. Pastor Katie is passionate about the intersection of faith, service, and justice, working alongside Immanuel’s community service and international mission teams, and serving with joy alongside Immanuel’s spirituality and learning team.  Pastor Katie enjoys designing Immanuel retreats and creating opportunities for sharing questions, wisdom, and contemplative practices together.  When she’s not on the church grounds, she loves spending time with Immanuel NEXT (20s and 30s group) and IPC young families through trivia nights and small group activities. Pastor Katie delights in welcoming newcomers into the life of the church and looks forward to meeting you!  She and her partner, Scott, live in Reston, where they frequent the tree-lined trails with their two rescue dogs, Peace and Indiana Bones. Email Pastor Katie at