Chapter 8

Poems, Prayer and Readings

Once you’ve chosen your poem, prayer or reading, be sure to read through it silently several times to familiarize yourself with its core ideas and images. The more you understand the poem, and grasp its meaning, the more likely others will too. Allow yourself to see the images created by the words in your imagination and feel the emotions. The more strongly you identify with the poem the easier it will be for others to follow.

Next, read the poem aloud. Read slowly. Allow each word its space. Resist the temptation to rush. Pay attention to the punctuation, listening for its musicality or beat. What words can be stressed more than others? Use your pencil or highlighter to mark pauses or stress points. Once you feel more confident experiment with your delivery. 

Next, rehearse in front of or a friend and ask for feedback. Could they hear and understand your words? Did they catch the images and feelings of the poem? Did you read too fast or too slow?  Once you incorporate their feedback you are ready.

Here are a few more tips as you prepare.  

  • Use your natural voice.  A 'dramatic' or assumed voice will seem artificial.
  • Remember to breathe between phrases, at the end of a line, or comma or period. You don’t want to hyperventilate. 
  • At such an emotional occasion it is good to print it out at a 14 point font or larger for easy reading.  
  • Finally relax and know that whatever happens happens. You’re fine. 

Of course, you’ll want to introduce your chosen poem, prayer or reading. Here are three introductory examples you can adapt to your own style of speaking.  The first is for when the speaker is reading another person’s written text.  

  

“[Name] has asked me to read this. I know [family member or friend] would really have liked to read it themself but is understandably, unable.”

Here is a second more generic introduction. 

“I would like to read a [poem, scripture, sacred text, reading] of hope and comfort written by [Name].”

Poems

The following poems all deal with thoughts and emotions associated with the fundamental questions around life and death, dying, grief, and loss.

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary 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’s 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.  

We Remember Him (We Remember Her) adapted from the Yizkor (pronounced yiz’ kor) Service 

If you wish group involvement give them the refrain, “We remember him/her” raise your hand to indicate participation. This poem could also be printed in the program.  

When we are weary and in need of strength,

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember him/her.

When we have a joy we crave to share

When we have decisions that are difficult to make

When we have achievements that are based on his/hers

We remember him/her.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember him/her.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember him/her.

At the rising of the sun and at its setting,

We remember him/her.

As long as we live, he/she too will live

For he/she is now a part of us,

As we remember him/her. 

This next reading can be used to remember, not only the person who has died but also a spouse, family members, or generation who died in past years. 

We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and at its going down,
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of Winter,

We remember them.

At the opening of buds and in the rebirth of Spring,
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer,
We remember them.

At the rustling of leaves and the beauty of Autumn,
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as
We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember them.
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make,
We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs,
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too shall live, for they are a part of us, as 

We remember them.

And,here is one more call and response.  

We Let You Go by Ruth Burgess

[Name,] Into the freedom of wind and sunshine

We let you go.

Into the dance of the stars and the planets

We let you go.

Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the star maker

We let you go.

[Name] we love you, we miss you, we want you to be happy.

[Name] Go safely, go dancing, go running home.

Continuance by Samuel Butler

I fall asleep in the full and certain hope
That my slumber shall not be broken;
And that, though I be all-forgetting,
Yet shall I not be all-forgotten,
But continue that life in the thoughts and deeds
Of those I have loved.

Our Memories Build a Special Bridge by Emily Mathews

Our memories build a special bridge

When loved ones have to part

To help us feel we’re with them still

And soothe a grieving heart

They span the years and warm our lives

Preserving ties that bind

Our memories build a special bridge

And bring us peace of mind. —Emily Mathews

You’ve Just Walked On, author unknown

You’ve just walked on ahead of me

And I’ve got to understand

You must release the ones you love

And let go of their hand.

I try and cope the best I can

But I’m missing you so much

If I could only see you

And once more feel your touch.

Yes, you’ve just walked on ahead of me

Don’t worry I’ll be fine

But now and then I swear I feel

Your hand slip into mine.

 

Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now forever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind.

Prayers

When our unhappiness and confusion grow out of control, some of us turn to the ancient practice of prayer. I find that in times of extreme trial, such as at the death of a loved one, people pray. This includes both religious and nonreligious individuals. People instinctively want to believe there is a power that is greater than their own. They yearn to connect their everyday lives with a purpose and will greater than themselves. Something Greater who exists beyond their own limited lives, so they reach for prayer. So it is only reasonable that prayers are often incorporated into funerals and memorial services.  Some traditions and families rely on extemporaneous prayer; prayer that is not written before delivered orally. Here I supply you with composed traditional prayers that have stood the test of time.

The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. Forever and ever. Amen

Alternative

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours. Now and forever. Amen 

Serenity Prayer 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi 

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; and Where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Or

Peace, adapted from the Prayer of St Francis of Assis

Make me a channel of thy peace – 

That where there is hatred, I may bring love; 

That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; 

That where there is discord, I may bring harmony; 

That where there is error, I may bring truth; 

That where there is doubt, I may bring faith; 

That where there is despair, I may bring hope; 

That where there are shadows, I may bring light;
That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. 

Grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;

To understand, than be understood; 

To love, than be loved. 

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. 

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to find -- Eternal Life.

We Give Thanks

We give thanks for [Name],
the years we shared with [Name],
the good we saw in [Name],
the love we received from [Name].

Now give us strength and courage
to leave confident in your promise

That love is eternal.  Amen.

Readings

Remember by 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 plann'd:
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.

Our Lives Matter by M. Maureen Killoran

We come together from the diversity of our grieving,
to gather in the warmth of this community
giving stubborn witness to our belief that
in times of sadness, there is room for laughter.
In times of darkness, there always will be light.
May we hold fast to the conviction
that what we do with our lives matters
and that a caring world is possible after all.

A Season, an ancient sacred text

To everything there is a season, 

and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; 

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to get, and a time to lose; 

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; 

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; 

a time of war, and a time of peace.

To everything there is a season, 

and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Blessed, an ancient sacred text

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 

for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: 

         for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek: 

         for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness:

for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: 

for they shall obtain mercy.

You may also choose to use music within the service itself. Music can be interspersed throughout as well as you begin and end the service. Revisit Chapter 3, or spring ahead to Chapter 9 for recommendations. At one burial service where I presided, a grandson brought his guitar and sang for his grandmother. This musical interlude gave a much-needed respite to the mourners and prepared them for the final act.