After Death Care
Although death is definite for all that lives, the time of death can come suddenly from trauma or slowly after a long illness. Often the time after a death in the family is a busy one, organising the funeral, dealing with the estate, meeting other relations and friends, etc.; but care for the body immediately after death and that which leaves, (whether you call it spirit, soul, subtle mind or energy) is very important. Its best if some preparation can be made for this before death.
Many Asian cultures and Buddhist philosophys recommend not touching the body after the last breath. They believe that this life force, spirit etc. is still present for a time and if the body is moved then a smooth transition to the afterlife cannot take place. Also an outward gushing of emotion is not recommended because it may cause the spirit, or subtle mind to regret dying and be more attached, making letting go and leaving harder.
However this is not the time try to stop someone from crying as this would cause more tension and unrest. On the contrary it is best to keep the atmosphere as peaceful as possible and this is best served by generating love and compassion for all present. Sometimes these arrangements can be made beforehand with medical staff and family, but remember the dying (like infants) sense the vibration if there is discord among people.
A simple practice for the dead that is appropriate for Christians, Buddhists or a person of any spiritually, is to visualize God, Buddha (or who ever) on the top of the head of the deceased and while saying out loud or silently to the deceased “Now you have died and will leave your body, your work here is finished, there is nothing you can take with you, let go of everything including all regrets and be your true self, a being of light and love for all those you have known and not known. Now you can learn everything you need, generate supreme faith and devotion to your refuge and the wish to be unified with your (divine source, your God, your spiritual master, the Dharmakaya, or Amitabha Buddha).
Then the caregiver visualizes the dead person’s consciousness as this being of light (with a very strong wish to unite to the heart of their refuge). The caregiver visualizes that it goes straight from the dead person’s heart and ejects out the top of their head into the heart of their refuge and they experience the mind of (God, Buddha, whomever is their refuge).
Then depending on the caregiver’s understanding and beliefs (s)he meditates on that peaceful experience and then dedicates all the positive, virtuous actions of the deceased and oneself to the future happiness of the deceased which can be heaven or birth in a Pure Land (Buddhist).This can be done even after the body has been dead for some hours but it is best done before the body is cold.
In the days and weeks following the death especially for the first 49 days one can help the dead person’s mind/spirit by avoiding harming others, generating love and compassion, doing kind actions, making charity and specific prayers and practices that their spiritual teachers recommend and dedicating this positive energy to the mind/spirit of the deceased, wishing only peace and happiness for them and rebirth in the presence of their God or Buddha.
© Amitabha Hospice Service Trust