WORDS OF COMFORT
'Think of me as one at rest..."
Whether they are read during funeral services, or in private moments by those who grieve, poems can mirror our feelings of loss, reflect the personality of those no longer with us, and give us hope for a future without them.
The most popular poem choices are, unsurprisingly, those that have a comforting theme. But what's particularly interesting is virtually all of the most frequently requested poems families ask me to read are written from the perspective of the deceased. Their husband, mother, brother, daughter is speaking directly to them, and the message they want to share is that they are at peace, they lived a good life, they loved and were loved, they live on. And they want their loved-ones to live their lives too. That says a lot about what grieving people feel comforted by and need to hear.
So here, in no particular order, are ten of the most frequently requested poems during my time as a Funeral Celebrant...
All is well - Henry Scott Holland
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always did.
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect,
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was;
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you,
For an interval,
Somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.
You can shed tears that he is gone - David Harkins
You can shed tears that he is gone
or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he’s gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Do not stand at my grave and weep - Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.
Afterglow - Helen Lowrie Marshall
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways
Of happy times, and laughing times, and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun
Of happy memories that I leave, when life is done.
At Rest - Author Unknown
Think of me as one at rest, for me you should not weep
I have no pain no troubled thoughts for I am just asleep
The living thinking me that was, is now forever still
And life goes on without me now, as time forever will.
If your heart is heavy now because I've gone away
Dwell not long upon it friend for none of us can stay
Those of you who liked me, I sincerely thank you all
And those of you who loved me, I thank you most of all.
And in my fleeting lifespan, as time went rushing by
I found some time to hesitate, to laugh, to love, to cry
Matters it now if time began, if time will ever cease?
I was here, I used it all, and now I am at peace.
Remember Me This Way - Author Unknown
When I come to the end of my journey
And I travel my last weary mile,
Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned
and remember only the smile.
Forget unkind words I have spoken;
Remember some good I have done.
Forget that I ever had heartache
and remember I've had loads of fun.
Forget that I've stumbled and blundered
And sometimes fell by the way.
Remember I have fought some hard battles
and won, ere the close of the day.
Then forget to grieve for my going,
I would not have you sad for a day,
But in summer just gather some flowers
and remember the place where I lay,
And come in the shade of evening
When the sun paints the sky in the west
Stand for a few moments beside me
and remember only my best.
Woodland Burial - Pam Ayres
Don't lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.
When tomorrow starts without me - David Romano
When tomorrow starts without me and I am not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes are filled with tears for me,
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry, the way you did today,
While thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you loved me, as much as I loved you,
And each time you think of me I know you’ll miss me too,
But, when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me, I'm right there in your heart.
Remember - Christina Rossetti
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
If I should die before the rest of you - Joyce Grenfell
If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.