by SS Sarb Sarang Kaur Khalsa, Espanola, NM
When Nav Jiwan Kaur moved into our apartment, my inner voice said “You’re supposed to help her die.” “How?” I asked. “I don’t even know her.” As we became close friends, she shared her thoughts and feelings about her difficult journey. When I thanked her for baring her soul to me, she said, “That’s because I trust you with my soul.”
This sacred trust had to be honored and is what set me on this path of becoming a Minister of Sikh Dharma, in preparation to apply for and be accepted into a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco this August. I had been able to help my dear friend and now it is time to learn to minister to strangers and those of all faiths, to truly “see God in all.”
Being interviewed as part of the process of becoming a Sikh Dharma International Minister was a very affirming experience, setting me up well to apply for the CPE residency. Writing my life narrative was a cleansing, illuminating exercise, as I reflected on my past (being raised as a devout Catholic) and reframed my experiences in light of my more mature understanding and training in Sikh Dharma. I came to know that I was divinely guided to the Sikh path to gain the strength to fulfill my destiny.
This knowing has empowered me and given me much joy, as my past, present and future come seamlessly together and make sense. I can more fully be myself, without ignoring or denying my upbringing. It also gives me a bridge to others whom I will be serving in my ministry.
This past March, I was privileged to be present with my friend Rajinder Kaur during her transition. On the first visit she talked all day, wanting to share as much of her wisdom as possible, mostly about how to run the Sunday children’s program, which she had done for years.
Her strength and focus were impressive, as was her sense of humor. When two young men came that evening to recite Sukhmani Sahib, she jokingly asked “How do I look?”
A few days later Rajinder Kaur was in the death coma, with one hand still in Gyan Mudra from meditating through the night. Caregivers and sangat members gathered, reciting Japji and Kirtan Sohila, chanting Dhan Dhan Ram Das Gur and the Pran Sutra, as she took her last breaths. Afterwards we offered an Ardas and took a Hukam, which spoke of how stories of respected elders make our children good children. How perfect and how uplifting!
Being totally present in the face of death, holding a sacred space, and having a stabilizing, calming impact on those in need give me deeper insight into what the future holds for me, in my work in the world. Having just completed the 21 Stages of Meditation course as well as the Level 2 Stress and Vitality module, I feel better prepared than ever. Wahe Guru!
Role of a Minister at Time of Death
As a Minister of Sikh Dharma, you may be called upon to counsel someone as he or she approaches death; you may be called upon to counsel relatives or friends; you may be called upon to take charge of the death services and funeral arrangements. There are legal issues as well as emotional issues involved. You will need a personal understanding and appreciation of the Sikh concept of death, as well as the legal requirements involved.
Guidelines to assist in leading the Sangat through this time (from Victory and Virtue).
The Yogic Concept of Death (from Victory and Virtue)
About the Author
SS Sarb Sarang Kaur Khalsa is an ordained Sikh Dharma Minister. She completed her chaplaincy training at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco, CA in 2015. She serves as a Chaplain/Administrator at the Presbyterian Hospital in Espanola, NM, where she lives with her husband, SS Harimander Singh Khalsa, her children and grandchildren. She also participates in the Hacienda de Guru Ram Das Hearts and Hands seva group, serving sangat members in times of medical or personal need.