Saturday, May 10, 2014

Creative Condolence: Poems, Part 2

If you start looking for them, you will find that there are many poems about:

  • nearing the end of life
  • the end of life
  • what may be after life
  • the "Afterlife"

At the funeral home, I prepare a number of keepsake items including memorial folders, and they all feature prayers, psalms, or poems. Reading them, reminds me that beliefs about death are very personal, guided by:
  • life experience
  • books
  • movies
  • gurus
  • prophets
  • faith-based doctrine
Will a poem that comforts and inspires you, be the right one for someone else? Let's look at an example which was submitted by one of my readers:

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 same easy way which you always did,
Put no difference into 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 the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect, without the shadow of a ghost on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity,
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am just waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

Henry Scott Holland was a religious professor at England's Oxford University, when he delivered a sermon in St. Paul's Cathedral following the death of King Edward VII, in 1910. What we know as the poem, All Is Well, was derived from that sermon.
The reader who submitted this poem shared that she is leaving final instructions that the poem be used on her memorial folder.
I applaud her advanced planning because this poem expresses her farewell.
I am not certain, however, that the "voice of the dead" method is well timed for a condolence note. Yes, it encourages us to not forget, to use the loved one's name, and to make our way back to a life of laughter and play. But...
The Coach says:  do not give advice; do not cajole the grieving to 'move on;' do not share your belief system's answer on what happens after death.
If you have written a poem or essay which expresses your regard and sense of loss at the death (and does not preach,) you may have a gem to offer in your condolence note.  

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