Spiritual Companionship for the Dying – Encouraging Connection & Community Near the End of Life

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If you accompany the dying, this 4-part webinar series is for you … It will offer tested practices from a variety of traditions and approaches- all designed to re-frame dying – from something to fear, into a resource for resolution, re-integration and revelation. Our focus: contemplative practice & experiential learning with emphasis on wisdom that works in real-life situations.

4-part Webinar Series

If you accompany the dying,

this webinar series is for you.

Death is often seen through the isolating eyes of fear.

But in truth, death can also bring people together.

Your listening presence can help make the difference –

encouraging deeper connection and even revelation.

You are doing important work.

We created this webinar to support you.

Please consider joining us.

Do you support someone who is dying?

Whether you are a spiritual companion or a family member or friend, you know how challenging it can be to accompany another human being in her or his or their final days. You probably also know how important it is to be present – not only to the person on the threshold of death, but also to loved ones and community members.


Modern culture implicitly teaches us to fear dying – to hide from it or react against it. As a counter-balance,this 4-part webinar series asks you to do the opposite. We invite you to face the experience of death – and to help others face it – with gentle welcome and tender curiosity. To accept death, rather than avoid it. To explore its truths. This is not easy -you know that already. But possible? Definitely.


Here are two reasons to consider joining us:

  • Death itself is a great resource and companion. This webinar series will offer practices from a variety of traditions and approaches – all designed to re-frame dying – from something to fear into a resource for resolution, re-integration and revelation.
  • Over these four sessions, you will go on a contemplative – and, we hope, healing – journey. Those who companion others know how important self-care is. Burnout is not uncommon. This webinar series will offer you tools that will help you find wholeness and follow your calling in a sustainable way.


Eric Massanari, MDiv, will host this journey in experiential learning. An experienced spiritual director and chaplain, Eric has deep experience companioning people who are exploring the fertile ground of elderhood and those who are nearing the end of life. Eric will be joined by a quartet of insightful, charismatic and compassionate spiritual companions who come from an array of spiritual traditions and backgrounds, all of whom have been seasoned by daily intercourse with people who are dying. (See their bios below.)

Course Description

Session 1 – Approaching the Threshold Led by Eric Massanari and Taqwa Surapati, this introductory session will explore how living with a conscious awareness of death changes one’s perspective on life. Some questions we will address: What does it mean to turn our attention toward death, to bring loving awareness to death and our human mortality in a largely death-denying and death-defiant culture? John O’Donohue speaks of death as our “unseen companion,” suggesting that in truth death is an ever-present companion and reality in our lives. How does the encounter with dying shape our way of living? How do we speak of death? As something to be fought, avoided, or resisted? How have our spiritual and religious traditions helped us form healthy relationships with our dying? How have they hindered? Taqwa will give us insight into some of the facets of the Islamic approach to death and insights from her work as a chaplain at Stanford University Hospital.

Session 2 – A Practice of Presence – This session will explore the experience of committing oneself to remain wakefully and compassionately present in the face of death. Acknowledging our tendencies to avoid, resist and deny the reality of our mortality. Practicing presence to our own internal reactions and responses when we encounter death. What is the inner work we must do as companions to be able to stay with those who are dying? The importance of practicing presence to the dying (and their caregivers/companions) just as they are, not as we might wish them to be. Eric Massanari and Miles Reimer will co-lead this session.

Session 3 – Humility in the Face of Mystery – Here, we engage with the fundamental mystery that arises when we confront the reality of death. We do not know what lies on the other side of this threshold. Death confronts our well-practiced efforts to maintain a sense of control, death pulls the rug out from under much that we have built our lives upon and death lays bare the answers and assumptions we may have made about ourselves and our world. When we companion others in the dying journey, we are made vulnerable–we see our own mortality, we recognize something of our own face in the face of the dying. In order to fully and compassionately companion others in the dying journey we must do so with humility, recognizing that this person’s dying is this person’s dying. Presenters Ryusho Jeffus and Eric Massanari will guide you in this process.

Session 4 – Alone and Together – On one hand, it appears that we all must approach and cross the threshold of death alone. Death can seem the most solitary journey we make, even when we make it surrounded by loved ones. It is also true that death is an integral part of the great cycles of life and we are united with all living beings in our mortality in a sense, we all die together. To companion the dying is to experience something that is innate to the human experience; we do this together with a great “cloud of witnesses,” a “communion of saints,” a “sangha” that includes all who have gone before us, all who are alive now, and all who will follow. Another point of reflection in this session: the practice of companioning does not end with death; we continue to be companioned by those who have died; their lives are inseparably woven into our own living and dying. This session will be led by Carole Trepanier and Eric Massanari.


Eric Massanari, M.Div., is an ordained pastor in the Mennonite Church USA, living in Newton, Kansas where he serves as a spiritual director and the chaplain of Kidron Bethel Village, a continuing care community for older adults. He is also a member of the SDI Coordinating Council. He has a passion for inter-faith learning, community building, and companioning people who are exploring the fertile ground of elderhood and those who are nearing the end of life. An avid poet and essayist, Eric is a contributing author of An Open Place: The Ministry of Group Spiritual Direction. Eric will be our guide, teacher and companion through all four sessions.

Taqwa Surapati is a cancer care chaplain at Stanford University Health Care in California. Taqwa completed her chaplain residency at Stanford Health Care, before going to Hartford Seminary in Connecticut for a Graduate Certification in Islamic Chaplaincy in 2014. Prior to that, Taqwa served for a decade as a Spiritual Care volunteer at Stanford and other local hospitals in the San Jose area. Currently finishing her Master of Art in Islamic Studies from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Taqwa’s interests include oncology chaplaincy, how people of faith think of end-of-life situations and advance health care planning. Taqwa came to the US in 1998 from Jakarta, Indonesia. | Taqwa and Eric Massanari, our host, will do the first session together. This will include a dialogue about the idea of “turning toward death.” Taqwa will also offer a presentation offering insight into the Islamic approach to death and accompanying the dying.

Miles Reimer is the Director of Pastoral Care at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. Miles has a wealth of experience walking alongside people at the end of life and, currently, he is overseeing the development of a palliative care program at Wesley. He has experience working as a chaplain with children in intensive care and with people who have experienced trauma. He completed his bachelor’s degree in theology from Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg, Canada, and earned his Master of Divinity degree from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. | Miles will present and will join Eric for Session 2 – A Practice of Presence.

Ryusho Jeffus is a Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest from Syracuse, NY. In his words: “My work with caring for those who are sick began at the start of the AIDS epidemic with the first death in 1979, from at the time an unknown and unnamed illness spreading rapidly through the gay community in Southern California. Later it acquired the name AIDS and then HIV/AIDS. Initially it was simply providing witness and providing primitive medical assistance since doctors and hospitals refused those boys. The work was challenging and beyond the capacity of the small number of like-minded individuals such as myself. I continued in that work actively through the years and the progression of treatment and understanding until 2002. I went on to formal training to become a Board-Certified Chaplain, BCC. Prior to my retirement, I worked for a number of hospitals in the Carolinas HealthCare System, now Atrium. I worked primarily in the cardiac ICU as well as various cardiac units. I also specialized in care of geriatric patients and those who have challenges with addictions. I have also worked at a Federal Maximum Security prison in KY serving Buddhist inmates with life sentences”| Ryusho will join Eric for Session 3 – Humility in the Face of Mystery.

Carol Luz Trepanier is a spiritual counselor – a ritualist who does energy work, earth-honoring and animist. She lives in Lanark, Ontario, Canada. She was raised Catholic but calls herself a Spiritual Independent now. She works with indigenous traditions and people in Africa, South America and North America. She has a remarkable personal history of attending the deaths of 10 people close to her and then spending more than 3 years caring for her mother as she went through what Carol paradoxically calls the “beauty and perfection of a long-suffering death.” Carol works in a number of areas. One of them is what she calls “practicing death.” This can be awareness of the death and rebirth with us in every moment. The “micro-deaths” of exhale and inhale, for example. She shares wisdom from cultures that have rituals that simulate death. The idea is not just practicing death so we are ready for death when it comes,  even more, it is practicing death to bring it into our own personal development and spiritual growth in the here-and-now. She says practicing death can lead to “unburdening” and healing. | Carole will present and join Eric for Session 4 – Alone and Together.

Additional Information

Each session will run 75 minutes.

Learning Objectives

The main goal of this webinar series is to support spiritual companions – and all those who companion the dying – with practical wisdom that will deepen their own approach to this important work. We will focus on key questions such as:

How does the presence of death, and the awareness of our mortality and impermanence, shape the way we companion others on the spiritual journey?

How does one keep one’s heart open as we companion someone who is dying?

How does our companioning of others open the door of awareness to our own mortality and the truth that we, too, shall die?

What practices, traditions are best to sustain you in your companioning work?

We explore self-care for companions.

Who may join the webinar?

Everyone is invited to participate in SDI Webinars.

Are CEUs available?

SDI will provide a certificate of completion for self-reporting to agencies.


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