I recently had a death near me, in the way of a suicide. I really want to do something for the family, and need a poem that is uplifting, but not so much in the way of christianity. I fear that the christian perspective may only cast a shadow on how my freind passed(as most christians see suicide as a one way ticket to hell) so if you can help point me in a direction I could go in it would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance. For any authors or sites I can find something on.thanks.
"Death is nothing at all"
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
pray smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
without the trace of a shadow in 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
somewhere very near
just around the corner
All is well
Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)
not much of a comfort, but my favorite
Dirge Without Music
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.
The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, —
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind:
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
I urge you and the family to get in touch with an organization of "suicide survivors"--people who are weeks, months, and years ahead of where you are in terms of making sense of what happened, sorting through the hostile vs compassionate responses from various religious traditions ... even finding POEMS that are appropriate.
You can start here:
This one from Preston Mark Stone, may be of value:
Speech Therapy: Week Two
in my loneliness, i pressed the muzzle
of a Remington shotgun tight
against my chin, whispered
an Ave Maria, and pulled the trigger.
A wadcutter slug spit from its casing,
rode a mushroom of gas along
the unrifled barrel, met the soft place
just inside my teeth, and plowed through
to the once-white ceiling.
i think of it now as being
something like a powerful sneeze.
i woke to the dull medicinal white
of the hospital, my face packed
like a canker sore. A portion
of the tongue, the hard palate,
cartilage and bone of the nose,
turned to a red-brown mist.
The sinuses blocked and scrambled,
the resonating bones crazed
with vein-like cracks. One ear
blown, numbness in the upper lip,
eyes rolling like loose bearings
in my bored-open head.
i couldn't pronounce my name,
Paul, polluted by the palatal L.
i couldn't pronounce my brother's
name, Thomas, crowned by that T
i so often enunciated in exasperation,
the strange cluck i made that meant
i was angry to be my brother's keeper.
i have to press the stump of my tongue
between my molars to make a choking rasp
that sounds more like a seizure
than a name, but Thomas
in his kindness always responds.
My mother won't settle for seeing me
alive. She comes into my room weeping
and whispering, pray with me. So i do
the best that i can. i still have
the Ave Maria, but the English Hail Mary
defies me. Explanation defies me --
to say i was lonely or even
the obvious i blew my face off
requires sounds my cleft voice
can no longer produce. Michael,
my therapist, shows me new ways
to make liquid sounds, but this
stubborn apparatus -- tongue, lips,
glottis and breath -- falters
into its old ways, manipulating
phantom bits that were atomized
in my bedroom's nagging half-light.
Repeat he says. Again, repeat.
Peggy came yesterday with flowers
and the gift of a manual typewriter,
a heavy black box that that fills
my lap as a reassuring weight.
i marvel at its delicate mechanics,
the keys levered against
the complex matrix of characters,
the hammers swinging forward
and impacting the ribbon to produce
perfect, pronounceable words.
it took me a while to realize
that the upper case i didn't work.
Last night i dreamt i pressed a key
and the whole machine flew apart,
exploding into a black and silver
halo and raining down on the once-white
sheets. i gathered up the shards
of alphabet and casing, and with what
i could recover, i rebuilt my voice.
i woke trying to weep, remembering
that once i felt i could never
be whole, that i had missed some
human lesson, and had no place among
the people. Now i touch my face
and find myself permanently wounded,
blown open by something as trivial
as grief, and the one thing
that can save me -- my voice, guttural,
crippled -- shines through the keys
of a Remington typewriter.
The one thing that can save me
is reined and driven by my mother,
who speaks in time with me and completes
the words i can only begin. Soon,
Michael promises me, i will be able
to speak alone and clearly, and i
will have much to say. For now, i have
only prayer and rote, and the exercise
i repeat, again and slowly repeat:
love, that moves the sun and other stars,
intractable love, my one bright gift.
Yes Thou Art Gone
by Anne Brontë
Yes, thou art gone! and never more
Thy sunny smile shall gladden me;
But I may pass the old church door,
And pace the floor that covers thee,
May stand upon the cold, damp stone,
And think that, frozen, lies below
The lightest heart that I have known,
The kindest I shall ever know.
Yet, though I cannot see thee more,
'Tis still a comfort to have seen;
And though thy transient life is o'er,
'Tis sweet to think that thou hast been;
To think a soul so near divine,
Within a form, so angel fair,
United to a heart like thine,
Has gladdened once our humble sphere.
a couple more suggestions -
Turn Again To Life
If I should die and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others, sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake turn again to life and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you.
A. Price Hughes
Death is a Door
Death is only an old door
Set in a garden wall;
On gentle hinges it gives, at dusk
When the thrushes call.
Along the lintel are green leaves
Beyond the light lies still;
Very willing and weary feet
Go over that sill.
There is nothing to trouble any heart;
Nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only a quiet door.
In an old wall.
Nancy Byrd Turner
Give What's Left Of Me Away
Now that I'm gone,
remember me with a smile and laughter.
And if you need to cry,
cry with your brother or sister
Who walks in grief beside you.
And when you need me,
put your arms around anyone
and give to them
what you need to give to me.
There are so many
who need so much.
I want to leave you something.
Something much better
than words or sounds.
Look for me
in the people
I've known and loved or helped
in some special way.
Let me live in your heart
as well as your mind.
You can love me most
by letting your love
reach out to our loved ones.
By embracing them
and living in their love.
Love does not die,
So, when all that's left of me is love,
give me away as best you can.
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 to stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you planned:
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 no grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go, - so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Edna St Vincent Millay