Mini-Grant Report: Dr Wakoh Shannon Hickey speaks with students about death, dying, and grief

I am grateful for the funding of our guest speaker Rev. Dr. Wakoh Shannon Hickey for the class RELG 229, Death, Dying, and Grief. Hickey’s work as a hospice chaplain and as a Zen priest as well as her scholarly expertise informed her time with us. She spoke primarily about the purposes and enactments of rituals at the bedsides of dying clients–providing descriptions of the rituals and helping students deepen their understanding of how rituals can work and how one can initiate rituals in difficult situations. Through Hickey’s exploration of how her own religious inclinations inform her inter-religious work as a chaplain, the students also began to understand how rituals are expected to work, in particular, in Zen Buddhism. 

A group of students in RELG 164, Studying Asian Religions (in the West), sat in on Hickey’s talk,and I am grateful that Hickey was able to spare hours on the following Saturday to discuss Zen ritual in greater depth with these students.

Some of the student comments in their thank you to her included:

“Thank you for your time and being that person for many people who help them through the process of healing/dying. And thank you for leaving us with the message of basic acceptance of life and death because after all we live to die some day.”

“Your time and attention were a wonderful present this morning. ‘We die how we live,’ will stick with me for a long time.”

“Your articulation of Zen practice in daily life and action was particularly fascinating.”

Sid Brown, Department of Religious Studies

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