Farewell Readings & Meditations
june 17, 2023
Farewell Readings & Meditations
Death in Print: This is farewell: readings and meditations on death & dying by Pinky Agnew, Meet: Celebrant and author Pinky Agnew, Death on Screen: Online Deathwalker Training
Listen to Episode 1 on the following podcast platforms
Or, if you've already listened to the show, scroll down for more info and links . . .
This is farewell: readings & meditations on death and dying

Author photo credit: Nicola Edmonds

After more than 20 years working as a funeral celebrant, Pinky Agnew has assembled a collection of her favourite poems and prose extracts about all things death and dying. The book, titled This is farewell: readings and meditations on death and dying, offers both words of comfort and words of empowerment.

In the book’s foreword, Pinky quotes Mother Suzanne Aubert, founder of the Sisters of Compassion, who says: “Following the miracle of our birth, the only sure thing is our death when our life is complete. Though awesome, it is not to be unduly feared… We do not fall suddenly into death, we advance towards it step by step every day. Our last hour is not death by itself but it consummates it.”

This is farewell is structured in three parts: readings, meditations and quotes/short pieces. As Pinky notes, death is the most likely topic for poets and authors, whether ancient, past and present. From literary heroes and heroines of the 19th and 20th centuries - think W.H. Auden, Emily Dickenson, DH Lawrence and Maya Angelou - to some of Aotearoa's own favourite authors - J.C. Sturm, Patricia Grace, Hone Tūwhare and even Barry Crump - and even the occasional unpublished writer, there is something for everyone, and almost every circumstance, in these 196 pages.

Meticulously indexed for easy reference, the book includes writing that is suitable to be read aloud at funerals, tangihanga, cremations, graveside or memorial services. Poetry, in particular, helps many of us make sense of our grief, whether alone or collectively. But This is farewell also provides words that help us, more privately, contemplate our own advance towards death, step by step, every day. There are words that help us contemplate our own mortality and words that remind us of the healing power of gathering to honour our dead.

In writing This is farewell, Pinky sets out to offer reflections on death and dying to help the living along on the path towards the end of their life story.

Find out more about This is farewell.
'We do not fall suddenly into death, we advance towards it step by step every day.'
- Mother Suzanne Aubert
Meet Pinky Agnew
In episode 1 of Deathwalker's Guide to Life Season 3, I speak with Pinky Agnew, who is celebrant, author and speaker based in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Born in Port Chalmers, Pinky started out as a clerical worker, union organiser and educator, and journalist. When she moved to Wellington in 1990, she branched out into showbiz, forming the comedy and singing telegram duo Glory Box with Therese O’Connell.

Since then, she says, "I have carved out a joyously varied career."

From the late 1990s through to the early 2000s, Pinky starred as former New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley in television’s McPhail & Gadsby, alongside Lorae Parry, who played former Prime Minister Helen Clark, and together they created a stage show with our characters – Leading Ladies – which they toured extensively around the motu. In 2004 was awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for her services to entertainment.

In 1996, Pinky became a celebrant, and she says it remains the most important, and rewarding, work she does.

Pinky nominated 'Beyond the Stars' by Tami Neilson and Willie Nelson as a song she would like played at her funeral or wake. Interestingly, the song, which was written by Tami Neilson and Delaney Davidson, is dedicated to Bobbie Nelson (1931-2022), Ron Neilson (1949-2015) and John Davidson (1950-2019). Listen to the song in our 'Farewell songs' playlist or scroll down to watch the music video.
'My approach to any farewell . . . is to honour the person by telling their story and empowering their loved ones to share their own tributes.'
- Pinky Agnew
Watch 'Beyond the stars'
Online Deathwalker Training
In 2014, the Natural Death Care Centre in Australia, a charity founded by Zenith Virago, offered its inaugural Deathwalker Training Programme in Byron Bay. I was one of the 14 people who took part and it changed my life.

A couple of years later, I brought Zenith to the top of the South Island to conduct the first training here in Aotearoa. Zenith has since delivered the training here in New Zealand several more times, most recently in Otautahi Christchurch last year, as part of the 2023 Death Matters post-conference workshop programme.

Anyone can be a deathwalker and many people do this work without having done the training. They have a natural aptitude for being brave in the face of death and being able to communicate openly, honestly and with compassion about death and dying.

But for everyone else, the Deathwalker Training Programme offers practical help and guidance about all things death and dying.

Until recently there were only a limited number of training opportunities but towards the end of last year, Zenith video recorded all 10 modules of the training programme and made them available online, so that people anywhere around the world can participate.

The basic premise of the training is that one really needs to explore their own mortality before they can walk beside or accompany dying and bereaved people in a considered and meaningful way. The Deathwalker Training gives you the opportunity to discover how to be more comfortable and skilled in intimate situations, at the bedside or the kitchen table, and sensitively guide people through their whole journey.

Since completing the training with Zenith twice, I’ve hosted numerous Death Cafes and have run ‘Death Literacy 101’ workshops, which are a blend of Death Cafe and creative writing workshop. And, since I had worked as a freelance journalist since the late 90s and have broadcast experience, the next step seemed to be to start my own radio show and podcast - and Deathwalker’s Guide to Life was born! I have Zenith to thank for making this show possible, and her blessing to use the term 'deathwalker'.

I’d also like to acknowledge all my fellow ‘Deathwalkers’ out there, and over time my plan is to feature more of you on the show. This work really is a team effort. Get in contact with me if you'd like to join me on the show!
Meet NDCC founder
Zenith Virago explains what it means to be a deathwalker

Visit the Natural Death Care Centre website.