Holy God, we praise your name
for all who have finished this life loving and trusting you,
for the example of their lives,
the life and grace you gave them,
and the peace in which they rest.
We praise you today for your servant (name)
and for all that you did through him/her. Meet us in our sadness
and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving,
for the sake of the One who loves us all.
O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life;
through Jesus Christ. Amen
God be in my head,
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be at my end,
and at my departing.
Lord, in weakness or in strength
we bear your image.
We pray for those we love
who now live in a land of shadows,
where the light of memory is dimmed,
where the familiar lies unknown,
where the beloved become as strangers.
Hold them in your everlasting arms,
and grant to those who care
a strength to serve,
a patience to persevere,
a love to last
and a peace that passes human understanding.
Hold us in your everlasting arms,
today and for all eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Additional Readings for a funeral or memorial service
Blues W. H. Auden
(This poem was made popular by its reading
in the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral.")
Stop all the
clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin,
let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white
necks of public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West.
My working week and my Sunday
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love
would last forever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now: put
out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the
ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
From the Ode To Immortality, Stanza IX
O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our
past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
that which is most worthy to be blest--
Delight and liberty, the simple
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope
still fluttering in his breast:--
Not for these I raise
The song of
thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of
Moving about in worlds not realised,
High instincts before
which our mortal Nature
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal
Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness,
nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the
Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Crossing the Bar Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness or farewell,
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
have crost the bar.
Dirge Without Music By Edna
St. Vincent Millay
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
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 are
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
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
We are such
stuff as dreams are made on ... William Shakespeare The Tempest, III,
Our revels are now ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were
all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air; And like the baseless
fabric of this vision, The cloud-cappd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The
solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve And
like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such
stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded in a sleep.
Not Go Gently Into That Good Night Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle
into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage,
rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark
is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle
into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their
frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying
of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn,
too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could
blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with
your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage,
rage against the dying of the light.
On Death Kahlil Gibran
would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it
in the heart of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day
cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of
death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one,
even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires
lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the
snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the
gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when
he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour. Is the
shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the
king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to
die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it
to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may
rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the
river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain
top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs,
then shall you truly dance.
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
Mary Elizabeth 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 sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn 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.
If you want to talk with someone in person, please feel free to call 212-864-5436
The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.