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The Spiritual Bath for hospice patients and families

The Spiritual Bath as a means to say goodbye in hospice

By Helen Burke

Helen Burke is a Hospice Chaplain with Holy Redeemer Hospice. In her role, Helen provides nondenominational spiritual support to hospice patients and their families. Holy Redeemer Hospice is blessed to have Helen as a member of our team.

An essential component of comprehensive wellness in hospice care is keeping the body clean. The home health aide provides personal care in the most gentle and respectful manner, leaving the patient feeling renewed and refreshed for the day.

The Pastoral Counselor or Chaplain can provide similar renewal for the hospice patient as well as caregivers on the level of Spirit. I often do this bathing ritual with patients and family members. I find it effective at the very end of life, especially for patients for whom the last rites or Sacrament of the Sick are not part of the family’s tradition. To give the Spiritual Bath, we pull everyone together around the bedside, not necessarily singling the patient out as the one whom needs healing or cleansing. Giving and receiving are meant to be one: we mutually bless each other. I find the words often trigger tears of forgiveness around the bed among family members, those we love so much but have old hurts and misunderstandings with which are sometimes heightened as we are caring for a parent or sibling.

By inviting the patient and/or family member to become still and present to the moment, the following can be offered as a Spiritual Bath. Here’s a guide:

(Addressing God or the Spirit of Love within us we begin by asking.)

Good and gracious One,

We gather to request your cleansing, healing power, that we might meet this day as Your pure instruments of light. Look into the heart of each of us here present and remove from us anything that is not of You, anything that is not of Love.

  • Lift from us any blame…(pause)
  • Take away any shame that we may be holding…(pause)
  • Release any guilt, for You would not have us remain so burdened…(pause)
  • Free us of any judgment that we hold against ourselves or others…(pause)
  • Seek us out and find—even in places we have hidden from ourselves—any ill will…(pause)
  • Please remove from us anything that we do not need for today’s journey.

And Holy One, in the place of our now fully open and unburdened hearts, fill us with

  • Your Grace… (pause)
  • Your Joy… (pause)
  • Your Peace… (pause)

that we may show up as our highest and best selves this day. And through this most powerful gift of Your Divine Love we may uplift ourselves and each other.


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