As Veritas Wiccans, we are taught to divide out Craft into what we call "The Four Labors." One of those labors is "Observation," meaning the observance of the natural rhythms and cycles of life.
This includes the Sabbats and Esbats of the wheel of the year, but with equal reverence, our own natural rites and passages, which if given ample time and contemplation you will find are a reflection of that seasonal wheel.
As Pagans, we seem to have a positive spin on Death. In my family for example, we have a tradition that embraces such passages.
A few months ago a member of our group was hospitalized for age related illnesses, she was 70. She had been constantly in and out of the hospital ever since. I have performed the Nenia several times, and I will never forget the first time I did it for someone who was still alive and aware of what we were doing. Looking them in the eye changes things.
During one of those hospital visits I preformed our "Wiccan Last Rights" on that very old and dear friend. I was a privilege to honor her request while she was alive and able to receive it. She kept fighting and was with us much longer than anyone had expected. She continued coming to rituals in a wheel chair with oxygen tank in hand. She had that very old school wisdom, humor and a grit we don't see much of anymore.
We called her "Q-tip" because of the ball of stark white hair which crown her head, and "Stinky-Biscuits" because like me, she had one of those names that was very difficult to get people to say correctly, and it was just easier to remember. She would roll her eyes and laugh every time we said it.
My wife is Mexican, strike that, my wife is VERY Mexican, and they have a very unique way of dealing with sensitive things like extreme sickness: they make fun of you. In only a way a Mexican can manage to pull off and make everyone laugh, including the one who's sick.
They would always hit her up, asking for a hit off the oxygen tank "Puff Puff Give." and once during an extended hospital visit they wanted to charge a cell phone, but some piece of critical medical equipment was plugged into the only outlet, and they were like "don't be stingy with plugs" And she loved them for it.
She had the most amazing attitude, during all this, friends and family came from all over to pay a visit. One by one they each became emotional and SHE comforted THEM. I even saw her comfort her Doctor who was grieved by the fact that there was nothing more she could do for her. Q-tip said just keep me comfortable, and keep that drip going. She told my wife "If I die today, it's ok because it was a good day to die."
On March 15th 2010, the oldest living initiated member of our Coven passed on to the Summerlands. She was our Friend, she was our Crone, and even in her last moments she made us proud to have known her. We celebrate her life, her Death and her Rebirth.
On Turns The Wheel...Blessed Be!