Funeral Poems, Readings, Music, Quotations & Thoughts

Three Silent Things

Not silent things but three of the strange and beautiful 'cinquains' written by Adelaide Crapsey before her death from tuberculosis in 1914 aged 36. Each short abstract poem is of five lines, growing in length and falling back on the fifth line like an exhalation. Adelaide CrapseyThe picture shows her in her patient's gown in the sanatorium at Saranac Lake, New York where she died.


These be
Three silent things:
The falling snow…the hour
Before the dawn…the mouth of one
Just dead.


Still as
On windless nights
The moon-cast shadows are,
So still will be my heart when I
Am dead.


Just now,
Out of the strange
Still dusk…as strange, as still…
A white moth flew. Why am I grown
So cold?

Obituary: Jane Lotter (by herself)

Last Month the Seattle Times published the obituary of a local woman, Jane Catherine Lotter. Seattle queen anneThere was nothing unusual about it until you read on to the end of the first sentence which went like this: One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen, is that you have time to write your own obituary...

It is a short, unpretentious and heartfelt farewell to friends, family and colleagues, full of good humour, hope and gratitude but what shines through most strongly is her great courage and her belief that it has all been worthwhile despite the difficulties which we all have to face. may you always remember that obstacles in the path are not obstacles, they ARE the path she writes.

Her obituary has been read many times across the world and touched the hearts of many people. The original full piece can be seen here at the Seattle Times.

The Tomb of the Diver

tomb of the diverExcavations at the ancient city of Paestum in southern Italy uncovered many fine tombs which took the form of individual sepulchres of solid stone slabs many of which were beautifully painted on the inside. The most famous is known as the Tomb of the Diver, presumed to be the grave of a young man. The four walls show a young man’s entry into a feast where there is music, drinking, laughter and love before leaving, led by a child playing the pipes and followed by an older man. On the lid of the tomb the young man dives into the waters of forgetfulness which lead to to the subterranean netherworld of Greek mythology.feasting


Wilko Johnson: 'Man, it makes you feel alive to be told you’re dying’

Funerals are sad affairs.  Bereavement can be a terrible blow and part of the purpose of a funeral is to provide an outlet for grief and a time for weeping and mourning.Wilko Johnson At the same time though it is a time when we need to hear something positive because we are also at a funeral to remember with joy a person's life and to look to the future with our loved ones and family around us bravely and with optimism.

Wilko Johnson has been a wonderful inspiration this year. Diagnosed with terminal cancer in January and having been told that he wouldn't see out this year  this is what he said:

The things that used to bring me down, or worry me, or annoy me, they don’t matter anymore — and that’s when you sit thinking, ‘Wow, why didn’t I work this out before? Why didn’t I work out before that it’s just the moment you’re in that matters?’ Worrying about the future or regretting the past is just a foolish waste of time....   Every little thing you see, every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, you think ‘I’m alive, I’m alive’ — I hope I can hang onto that. I’ve had a fantastic life....   I think anybody who asks for more would just be being greedy. I don’t wanna be greedy.”

He was back in the news this week. Now unable to play concerts but still hoping to make some public appearances, he has been talking about his family, and how moved he has been by his fans' reaction to his illness.

Stop All the Clocks

Everybody knows the beautiful poem 'Funeral Blues' by W H Auden used in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Nobody can read it as well as John Hannah did, but here it is recorded as a song by Nemo Shaw.

Her laughter was better than birds in the morning

Caroline Tandy [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsA short poem by the former poet laureate Cecil Day Lewis. I have heard it used for a man with 'her' read as 'his' and 'she' as 'he'.

Her laughter was better than birds in the morning,
Her smile turned the edge of the wind,
Her memory disarms death and charms the surly grave.
Early she went to bed, too early we
Saw her light put out; yet we could not grieve
More than a little while,
For she lives in the earth around us, laughs from the sky.

Ashes in the Wild West Wind

I recently heard the last cantos of Shelley's Ode to the West Wind used at a funeral. How wonderful the lines were with their references to death, rebirth and the scattering of words and ashes in the wind, and how perfect for cremation or for a ceremony with ashes.

By By Alfred Clint (died 1883), after Amelia Curran (died 1847), and Edward Ellerker Williams (died 1822); cropped by Beyond My Ken (talk) 07:07, 16 September 2012 (UTC) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsO wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
* * *
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither'd leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken'd earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

Christina Rossetti ~ Sleeping At Last

Sleeping at Last

Christina RossettiSleeping at last, the trouble and tumult over,
   Sleeping at last, the struggle and horror past,
Cold and white, out of sight of friend and of lover,
         Sleeping at last.

   No more a tired heart downcast or overcast,
No more pangs that wring or shifting fears that hover,
   Sleeping at last in a dreamless sleep locked fast.

Fast asleep.  Singing birds in their leafy cover
   Cannot wake her, nor shake her the gusty blast.
Under the purple thyme and the purple clover
         Sleeping at last.

Christina Rossetti

Robert Burns' Epitaph for a Friend

A lovely epitaph in plain language, forthright and unpretentious.

Robert Burns Scottish Poet

An honest man here lies at rest,
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.


From The Good Book

The Good Book is A. C Grayling's 'Secular Bible'. Much of it is a compendium of ancient writings from around the world. I suspect this bit is written by himself.

The Good CH II vv i, iii-iv, vii-ix
It is in the death of others that our deepest grief and greatest loss comes.
To live is to have a contract with loss. The past eludes us, and carries away what we valued;
some of those we love will surely die before we do and we will mourn them.
For this we must have courage; necessity is hard, so we must accept what is inevitable and unavoidable, and endure.
But even grief abates, and those we grieve, if they could speak, would tell us that they do not wish us to grieve for ever,
But would wish us to remember the best of them, and to return our thoughts to life and the good. And life is the endeavour of the good.
We honour them most, and cherish the memory of them best by obeying the injunction to live, and to seek the good that endures.


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