In the Sikh faith, when a deceased loved one is cremated, mourners often recite a nightly prayer that evokes their existence.
“As we live our lives, we’re supposed to be reminding ourselves life is temporary. … The soul has a purpose,” said Raman Singh, a Sikh from West Bloomfield Township and board member of the Gurdwara Sahib Hidden Falls worship site in Plymouth. “The challenge for a human being is to keep focus on the endgame, which is the journey of a soul, while still participating in life.”
That concept is one of many to be covered Sunday during “Final Goodbyes: Death, Dying and Mourning Across the Faith Traditions,” a forum at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak.
Hosted by the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit and co-sponsored by the Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit, the event will address how faiths deal with the end of life.
The idea is to highlight diverse approaches to a universal situation, said the Rev. Bob Hart, a council board member and pastor of St. John’s church. “We want people to be educated about other people’s religious traditions and faith practices … because that builds understanding and respect,” he said.
Panelists representing Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and American Indian beliefs are to explore topics involving funeral preparations and more.
David Techner, funeral director and owner of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, said he expects to explain the significance of shiva, the seven-day mourning period for Jews, and why a corpse typically undergoes a cleansing ritual much like newborns.
“What we’re doing is imitating the birth process because we believe it’s the beginning of another form of life,” he said.
Kay McGowan, a cultural anthropologist of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage who teaches at Eastern Michigan University, is to describe burial customs as well as protection offered by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.
Examining such information not only debunks myths but also “leads to better decision-making,” she said. “It leads to problem-solving between different groups. It teaches respect … creates a sense of acceptance.”