/ A reading for a funeral

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Joe G - on 28 Mar 2013
Just wondering if any literary types might be able to help me out... I've been asked to do a reading at my Grandmother's funeral and struggling to find something suitable.

Many bits and pieces of poems and prose seem to be more suited to the tragedy of someone who died young, whereas I'm thinking more in terms of celebrating the life of someone dear in a more positive way in that while it's a loss to see her go, it was her time and she had a good life. Some things I've found online seem a bit preachy, others just irritating in an undefinable way...

Thanks in advance for suggestions.
John Workman - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Joe
How about this one - always seems to me appropriate for the 'passing' of an older person.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Because_I_could_not_stop_for_Death
Alyson - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G: I don't know whether or not you'd class this as irritating in an undefinable way (or whether perhaps it's become a little overused) but I think Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep is nicely uplifting about the passing of a cherished person.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Stand_at_My_Grave_and_Weep
AlisonSmiles - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G: David Harkins "She is gone" is one I find kind of warm and celebratory.
tlm - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

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 still are.
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
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 and if you want to, 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.
pork pie girl - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:how about writing your own... capaturing the positives ... not necessarily a poem but even a story or something? :o)
deepsoup - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:
Its very matter of fact, and not particularly um.. 'literary', but I like this one:

When I am dead
Cry for me a little
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moments it's pleasant to recall
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.

mrchewy - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to pork pie girl: I'd second that. Just relate a tale or two that you know from experience, people appreciate stuff like that I think and it's far more personal.
At my gran's funeral she asked for me to say the prayer at the end! It was tough - I just said what I wanted, straight from the heart. She'd have liked that, she wasn't one for religion and I reckon that was her being contrary till the end.
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

I have always thought this to be touching (from Lord of the Rings)


"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!"
New POD - on 28 Mar 2013
My uncle told a brillant story about my grandad at his funeral, which pretty much summed up his personality.

It was about his response to my uncle getting poor grades in his A levels, and how by tea time, my Grandad (without any discussion) had phoned up his contacts in the Masons, spoken to a professor somewhere, and got him a place on a course in housing and planning, with a sponsorship from the local housing department, and guarteed holiday work experience.

My uncle wasn't bitter, because he was given the option. You can do what you want, but you'll have to pay rent, and I don't think an extra year in the sixth form pays enough.
Hannah S on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:
This is short but I like it seen two versions of it depending on how the person passed.

God saw you getting tired, and a cure was not to be. So He put His arms around you and whispered "Come to ME". With tearful eyes we watched you, and saw you pass away. Although we love you dearly, we could not make you stay. A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest. God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best.

if not an illness the first line is changed to God could see you getting weary so he did what he thought best, he put his arms you and whispered come and rest.
Hannah S on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:
this site also has some nice ones.
http://www.dennydavis.net/poemfiles/mempoem.htm
John_Hat - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to pork pie girl:
> (In reply to Joe G)how about writing your own... capaturing the positives ... not necessarily a poem but even a story or something? :o)

That what I did for my Dad - wrote my own based on a few funny stories which were entirely in his character.
Jenny C on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G: Forget that this is a religious text and just savour the words:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Corinthians 13
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Jenny C:

Probably the text I dislike most intensely, yet the one which is trotted out at funerals "because that's the reading people always have" - 90% of it is simply incomprehensible to normal mortals, while the remaining 10% could be summed up in one sentence.

If somebody spouts this garbage at my funeral, I'd like to think somebody who actually knew me would be kind enough to shove it down the reader's throat.

Still, if you like it...

JW
Jenny C on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:
> (In reply to Jenny C)
>
> Probably the text I dislike most intensely

Ouch!

> Still, if you like it...

Brings (good) tears to my eyes every time I read/hear it

- each to their own, and life would be dull place if we all liked the same things......
Jimbo W on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Personally, my favourite is John Donne, though it speaks definitively of a faith in the life hereafter:

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or channs can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:

What on earth is your problem with it? How can you dismiss it as 'garbage'? The three points it makes are (my interp): 1. 'Faith' : the good in this world roughly equals the evil/bad (not for all individuals, of course), and there is so much about nature/the world/life that is wonderful that we must have a kind of trust in it. This leads directly to an attitude to life: 2: 'Hope': Optimism. Never, ever giving up hope, however hard situations become. 3. "Love'. Much more important than 1 or 2. The original latin I beiieve was 'caritas', which was traditionally (and then correctly) translated as 'charity', but that's become hopelessly marred by the modern use of the term of simply doling out money to the unfortunate. 'Love' is also incorrect for modern ears. What it really means is 'total respect' for persons, what Christians call 'neighbour love'. Which means treating them always as equals, and if they get into severe trouble, being prepared to help them as if you loved them.

This seems a very, very wise creed to me.
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to John W)

>This seems a very, very wise creed to me.

It's not its wisdom that I have an issue with - it's simply the fact that, like the vast majority of readings from the bile (sorry, bible), they get churned out because "it's the done thing", despite the fact that they make little if any sense to a listener who happens to exist in today's world. If you want another example, try asking somebody who's just mumbled their way through the lord's prayer what it actually means.

But hey, if you like it, that's fine by me.





John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:

And while I'm at it, Jimbo W's favourite from Mr J Donne (see above) would have me gyrating in my casket!
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Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:

PS. I do however think it would be a very strange text to read at a funeral, simply because it is far too abstract and has nothing to do with the question of death, and the subject of a typically huge personality who has now gone/vanished into the the ether. I think any such texts should be much more personally relevant. Anyhow, i think it can all be done much better with (vocal) music.
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:
> (In reply to Gordon Stainforth)
> [...]
>
> >This seems a very, very wise creed to me.
>
> It's not its wisdom that I have an issue with - it's simply the fact that, like the vast majority of readings from the bile (sorry, bible), they get churned out because "it's the done thing", despite the fact that they make little if any sense to a listener who happens to exist in today's world. If you want another example, try asking somebody who's just mumbled their way through the lord's prayer what it actually means.
>

Our posts crossed. Agreed with all of that. It's typically trotted out as an easy choice, and by people who've scarcely been into a church in their lives, and are suddenly pretending to be very Christian by reading out one of its most fampus lessons.
> But hey, if you like it, that's fine by me.

John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to John W)
>
> PS. I do however think it would be a very strange text to read at a funeral, simply because it is far too abstract and has nothing to do with the question of death

Here I agree entirely - unfortunately, the piece in question happened to be churned out at both of the last two funerals I went to. In both cases, I doubt the clergyman in question had the faintest idea about the person he was burying or the congregation he was addressing.
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Aha, crossed again! :-)

By the way, I'm thinking of adopting "fampus" as my new word of the week!

Cheers, John
Gordon Stainforth - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W:

As typos go (I was standing, not even sitting, when I wrote that message, leaning over another computer) ... quite good, with overtones of 'rumpus'.
Siward on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W: no fan myself but, come on, my three year old daughter could comprehend it.

Please keep me away from these 'ordinary mortals' :)
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Siward:
> (In reply to John W)

>my three year old daughter could comprehend it.

Wanna bet?

>Please keep me away from these 'ordinary mortals' :)

Please keep me away from parents who have ridiculously over-inflated opinions of the comprehension abilities of their infant offspring.

pork pie girl - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John_Hat: yeah, same goes, it wasn't easy to do but we knew what we did write captured who he really was and i knew he'd want to keep it positive ..based ousr on funny stories.. i think it also lifted us all a bit on the day
pork pie girl - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to John W: i've just had a quick scan of your contributions to this topic... i think the OP should be able to make up his own mind about peoples suggestions rather than you critiquing things left, right and centre... there are times when this is ok.. but not this time mate... so.. in a nutshell.. wind ye miserable neck in.

cheers PPG :o)
John W - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to pork pie girl:

Just in case you missed this...

"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! We are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!"


However, that's me done.

To the OP - apologies for the thread going off-track.

JW
Sean Kelly - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G: When my mother-in-law passed away a few years back I thought this very appropriate as she was an avid gardener. Her immediate family were too upset and emotional which perhaps made it easier for me to say a few relevant words.

THE GLORY OF THE GARDEN


Our England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you'll see the gardeners, the men and 'prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing:--"Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives.

There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

Rudyard Kipling

stack - on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Don't feel sad
If you fail to succeed
Life's not a race
That is judged by it's speed
Honours in plenty so often abide
In quiet humble people
Who's wealth is inside
Jimbo W on 28 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth and John W:
> (In reply to John W)
>
> PS. I do however think it would be a very strange text to read at a funeral, simply because it is far too abstract and has nothing to do with the question of death, and the subject of a typically huge personality who has now gone/vanished into the the ether. I think any such texts should be much more personally relevant. Anyhow, i think it can all be done much better with (vocal) music.

I've not heard it at a funeral, but I've heard it numerous times at weddings, which seems appropriate for the focus of those being married on love, its reality, requirement of work, power and persistence, and is particularly appropriate for all to hear when in front of them two people commit to become one. However, re-reading this as if it were in the context of funeral, I can only imagine it as a statement of the outward expression of the individual concerned, i.e. that he/she was a lover of humanity, which seems to me to be about the best way one could possibly be remembered.
Gordon Stainforth - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

Yet, it is just such an offensively unimaginative and unfocussed choice. One might just as well read out Hamlet's soliloquy about the human condition, or Kipling's If, or The Desiderata ...
lemonparty - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
> (In reply to John W)
>
> How can you dismiss it as 'garbage'?

It's from the bible.
Jimbo W on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Yet, it is just such an offensively unimaginative and unfocussed choice. One might just as well read out Hamlet's soliloquy...

Or better still, Hamlet's cold monologue to Rosencrantz:
I have of late, (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition; that this goodly frame the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'er hanging firmament, this Majestical roof, fretted with golden fire: why, it appears no other thing to me, then a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither.
....but I think Dawkins might want to reserve that one for his.... ;)
JJL - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Ben Okri "An African Elegy"

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear the poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things.

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless the things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.
tlm - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.
tlm - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to Joe G:

Autumn wind of eve
Blow away the clouds that mass
O'er the moon's pure light.
And the mists that cloud our mind
Do thou sweep away as well.

Now we disappear
Well, what must we think of it?
From the sky we came
Now we may go back again
That's at least one point of view.
Joe G - on 29 Mar 2013
In reply to everyone:

Wow! Thanks for all the ideas and contributions. I didn't expect quite so many replies. There's a lot there to think about!
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