Sundays, September 29 (optional), October 13, 27, November 10
10:00-11:30 (CT) / 11:00-12:30 (ET)

Optional small group sessions and dokusan/daisan will be available in the weeks between large group sessions.

Walking Each Other Home: Being a Compassionate Presence at the End of Life

As those we love face sickness, old age, and death, we have the incredible opportunity to be a companion to those who are dying. Learn how our Zen and Mondo Zen practices allow us to find the equanimity to be fearlessly and fully present in the face of death. Discover how to be a compassionate presence – how to listen deeply and generously to help the dying transcend their suffering, to find meaning, peace, and comfort at the end of life. While this may be a most challenging and difficult thing to do, it can also be a most beautifully sacred and intimately rewarding experience. Calling all Bodhisattvas!

Cost: By donation– recommended $50 minimum. If you require financial assistance please email

Required TextPresent through the End: A Caring Companion’s Guide for Accompanying the Dying by Kirsten DeLeo


Sunday, September 29 – Advanced Care Planning (optional)

Learn about or review Advanced Care Planning for yourself and others. We will consider the attributes needed for your Health Proxy / Power of Attorney (POA) for Health Care. We will examine the typical questions asked in Advanced Directives and Living Wills including data on the efficacy of life-sustaining measures. Other topics include goals of care, quality of life, where you want to die and who you want (and don’t want) with you, and how you want your body cared for after death.

Sunday, October 13 – How You Are

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

What you bring to the bedside, how you are – your feelings, emotions, thoughts, energy – all impact those is the room. Explore Buddhist and Mondo Zen practices to help ground us in meditative awareness, mindfulness, and Clear Deep Heart Mind as we journey with the dying.

Sunday, October 27 – What is Possible at EOL?

There are many options available to the dying for support in their process. We will explore palliative care, hospice, community-support care, Medical Aid in Dying (MAID), Voluntarily Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED) and more. For caregivers, we will examine the physical and psychological changes that can happen as death approaches, including end-of-life visions and dreams. We will discuss how to bear witness and support the dying with an open heart and open mind through these difficult decisions and times.

Sunday, November 10 – When I Have Fears …

As death approaches, people may feel distress over their helplessness and dependence, concern about the meaning of their life and death, and fear of death itself. Sometimes, people will have unresolved issues that need to be addressed in order to die peacefully. How we listen and what we say and do will have a profound impact on the dying. Learn how to listen more deeply than ever before and engage in ways that are supportive and comforting. We will also revisit the preciousness of silence and the gift of not knowing.


Vicara Mary Connelly Roshi

Vicara Roshi has been involved in meditative practice since the early 1970s. After receiving her MSW followed by 2 years of postgraduate training in psychotherapy, she practiced as a psychotherapist until entering medical school in 1984. 

While in medical school, she began her Zen training in the Soto tradition and received Jukai from Zenkai Taiun Michael Elliston.  She was one of the founding members of the Charleston Soto Zen Center in South Carolina. After moving to Appleton, WI, Vicara began practicing yoga with Ma Dhyana in 1993 and began studying with Jun Po Roshi in 1994.  She received Jukai with Jun Po Roshi in 1998. Vicara Roshi is one of the founding members of what became Zen River Sangha in Appleton, WI. In 2002, she was designated to teach as Sensei and received Hollow Bones Priest Ordination in 2003. On December 4, 2015, she received Inka, Dharma Transmission, from Jun Po Roshi.

Vicara Roshi retired after 32 years of medical practice in 2020. Her last 12 years of practice focused on providing Integrative Medicine services to oncology patients at 2 cancer centers in NE Wisconsin. Previously, she directed the Center for Health & Healing, an Integrative Medical Center in Green Bay, WI. 

Working in partnership with those facing critical illness embodies the truth of our life as practice.  None of us can escape sickness, old age, and death. Opening and allowing this deep truth can help us face what truly needs to be seen and experience life as it is.

Reishin Denise Leong

Reishin Denise Leong has been with the Hollow Bones Zen sangha since 2005, taking jukai in 2007 and ordaining as a priest 2010. She currently serves as one of six teachers at the Zen River Sangha in Appleton, Wisconsin. 

In her retirement after forty-one years in education, Reishin has been blessed to serve as a chaplain for a local hospital since 2018. From her experiences there and as a hospice volunteer for over twenty years, she recognizes the importance and value of death awareness and accepting death as an integral, precious part of life. 

Reishin has certificates as an End-of-Life Doula from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, a Grief Support Specialist from the University of Wisconsin, and an Advanced Care Planner from Aurora Health. She holds a Proficiency Badge from the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) and hosts a bi-weekly Zen Death Café online.

Faced continually with old age, sickness, and death, Reishin offers perspectives and skillful means for Zen practitioners to embrace the whole of life with equanimity, grace, and gratitude.

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