Tell all my mourners
To mourn in red –
Cause there ain’t no sense
In my bein’ dead.
(1902 – 1967)
From all the rest I single out you, having a message for you,
You are to die–let others tell you what they please, I cannot prevaricate,
I am exact and merciless, but I love you–there is no escape for you.
Softly I lay my right hand upon you, you ‘ust feel it,
I do not argue, I bend my head close and half envelop it,
I sit quietly by, I remain faithful,
I am more than nurse, more than parent or neighbor,
I absolve you from all except yourself spiritual bodily, that is
eternal, you yourself will surely escape,
The corpse you will leave will be but excrementitious.
The sun bursts through in unlooked-for directions,
Strong thoughts fill you and confidence, you smile,
You forget you are sick, as I forget you are sick,
You do not see the medicines, you do not mind the weeping friends,
I am with you,
I exclude others from you, there is nothing to be commiserated,
I do not commiserate, I congratulate you.
(1819 – 1892)
Over the dead line we have called to you
To come across with a word to us,
Some beaten whisper of what happens
Where you are over the dead line
Deaf to our calls and voiceless.
The flickering shadows have not answered
Nor your lips sent a signal
Whether love talks and roses grow
And the sun breaks at morning
Splattering the sea with crimson.
(1878 – 1967)
I should not dare to leave my friend,
Because — because if he should die
While I was gone, and I — too late –
Should reach the heart that wanted me;
If I should disappoint the eyes
That hunted, hunted so, to see,
And could not bear to shut until
They “noticed” me — they noticed me;
If I should stab the patient faith
So sure I ‘d come — so sure I ‘d come,
It listening, listening, went to sleep
Telling my tardy name, –
My heart would wish it broke before,
Since breaking then, since breaking then,
Were useless as next morning’s sun,
Where midnight frosts had lain!
(1830 – 1886)
The last night that she lived,
It was a common night,
Except the dying; this to us
Made nature different.
We noticed smallest things, –
Things overlooked before,
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized, as ‘t were.
That others could exist
While she must finish quite,
A jealousy for her arose
So nearly infinite.
We waited while she passed;
It was a narrow time,
Too jostled were our souls to speak,
At length the notice came.
She mentioned, and forgot;
Then lightly as a reed
Bent to the water, shivered scarce,
Consented, and was dead.
And we, we placed the hair,
And drew the head erect;
And then an awful leisure was,
Our faith to regulate.
(1830 – 1886)
Our journey had advanced;
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being’s road,
Eternity by term.
Our pace took sudden awe,
Our feet reluctant led.
Before were cities, but between,
The forest of the dead.
Retreat was out of hope, –
Behind, a sealed route,
Eternity’s white flag before,
And God at every gate.
with easy starts
are not the first
ones to our hearts
when the cold cadaver light of day
takes one of those we love away
After the funeral
- when the funeral was over
- After we had buried him
We walked across the grass
…We walked across the grass
leaving footprints in the dew
with him forever
And now, forever
looking back across the grass
The warmth of the day
losing us all, forever
THEY bear him to his resting-place—
In slow procession sweeping by;
I follow at a stranger’s space;
His kindred they, his sweetheart I.
Unchanged my gown of garish dye,
Though sable-sad is their attire;
But they stand round with griefless eye,
Whilst my regret consumes like fire!
Thomas Hardy, 1840–1928
The headlights on the
hearse stare straight ahead
like zombies’ eyes,
illuminating the way.
the opposite way pull over,
some passengers hushed,
Burdened with baby’s breath
gladioli sprays and black lace,
a funeral is solemn
before the journey
after the journey.
Life is but a stopping place,
A pause in what’s to be,
A resting place along the road,
to sweet eternity.
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way,
We all were meant to learn some things,
but never meant to stay…
Our destination is a place,
Far greater than we know.
For some the journey’s quicker,
For some the journey’s slow.
And when the journey finally ends,
We’ll claim a great reward,
And find an everlasting peace,
Together with the lord
Play Jolly Music at My Funeral
I’ve taken in recent years to thinking about my funeral
and have decided to make one paramount request:
play jolly music at that ritual.
What good does it do to heap on dirges
or other mournful melodies?
I won’t be there to be gratified by the grieving
and if I could tune in
I’d be happier to see those present have some relief.
Dixieland would be nice.
Joplin would be fine.
Something by Fats Waller would certainly do.
Those early jazzmen knew what they were up to
when they set about making funeral marches swing.
So swing me away, please, with a rousing tune.
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the worlds storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heavens glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move mens hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast Rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy Spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou wert left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou — Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
There is one more thing you have to do for me…
Hey, you can’t keep me from getting drunk…
I need this drink, and you know it true,
In this love, that I leave for you,
Where do you think we are…?
We are at your brother’s funeral…
You have to do something for me…
You so…have to forgive yourself…
Forgive yourself… for the person who you are…
And believe in the life, that you have become…
For you are a good person…
Who I wish I had so become…
But in the end, the most important thing to except is…
That… as so alone you might feel,
And how painful it may be,
With the help of those around you,
You will get through this to,
This much…I believe in you,
And you know…In god that I trust…it’s true…
I give this day that I leave to you…
As you know… that I’m so blue…
As today…we will bury you…
Death sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,
With “This was last her fingers did,”
The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then ‘t was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.
A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him, –
At rest his fingers are.
Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs.
(1830 – 1886)
An unforgiving memory conspicuously brought back to existence
The beginning of the end has only begun
You can douse the corpse in cough syrup, but your timing’s a little off
You seem to have murdered your own heart
I hope it had a lonely funeral
I regret to inform you but the eulogy’s been said
Did you ever plan to notice that your clock had fallen behind?
The possible remedy missed its chance
Time waits for nothing, gone in a glance
It appears you have murdered your own heart
I’m sure it had a lonely funeral
The two old, simple problems ever intertwined,
Close home, elusive, present, baffled, grappled.
By each successive age insoluble, pass’d on,
To ours to-day–and we pass on the same.
(1819 – 1892)
She planted dill for swallow-tails
and milkweed where monarchs would lay
their caterpillar offspring round
the grass green meadows of May.
The migrants returned then as always;
how quickly her crops were consumed!
but countless chrysalides dotted the dell
tucked inside their golden cocoons.
Then early one morning she beckoned
us watch the mystery unfold;
the metamorphosis almost complete
translucent shells gave up their gold.
Wet wings greeted the rising sun
and the warmth of a soft summer breeze,
soon butterflies coloured meadow and wood
floating gracefully throughout the trees.
She told us of unseen transcendings
as we watched the born-agains soar;
so certain were we then of heaven
as if we had been there before.
from: At the Water’s Edge