Seeking Refuge Through Poetry (Ongoing Post)

In my coaching work around end of life issues, I find that people take great comfort in poetry.  Sometimes in the business of life, we don’t take time for poems but they can offer great wisdom and comfort, both to the dying and those left behind.  I would love to know the poems relating to death that you take comfort from as I continue to add to this post.

For the Terminally Ill

One of my favorite poems about life, “The Guest House” by the poet, scholar and Sufi Mystic, Rumi (Mawlānā Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī), is often shared in yoga classes and meditation retreats.  Many who are terminally ill find comfort in Rumi’s words that teach us to embrace the uncertainty of life.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
For the Grieving

A poem I just discovered while watching The Shape of Water (twice in 24 hours because I found it so amazing) is spoken at the of the film and honors the concept of how loved ones who die before us are still with us:

Patricia McKernon Runkle has written a beautiful poem about giving comfort to those who are grieving.




Slip off your needs

and set them by the door.

Enter barefoot

this darkened chapel

hollowed by loss

hollowed by sorrow

its gray stone walls

and floor

You, congregation

of one

are here to listen

not to sing.

Kneel in the back pew,

Make no sound,

let the candles


Patricia McKernon Runkle

On Death

Some poems grant more comfort than others.  I prefer an embrace of the end that will come.  But, here is Dylan Thomas’ poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas1914 – 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


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