Posted by Richard Rawlinson
Poems are often read at funerals.
Here are just a few, including WH Auden’s Funeral Blues, which moved many cinema-goers to tears when featured in Four Weddings… ‘He was my North, my South, my East and West/My working week and my Sunday rest…’
But are many celebrants confident enough in their word skills to craft a bespoke poem based on their understanding of a person’s character traits and unique story?
Helen Bennett advertises this service on her website. ‘There are many wonderful eulogy poems out there that are for general use, but for many people they can seem overused, impersonal and inappropriate,’ she says. ‘If you want something that really is very personal… then I can help you’.
It’s a shame she doesn’t post a few examples of her work to give us a flavour.
Above is The Dead by former US poet laureate Billy Collins. It doesn’t take the form of a eulogy about a specific person, but it evokes a soothing image of the after-life and comes with an animation for the YouTube generation.
And here’s my attempt at a sonnet of iambic pentameter, again unspecific, and more concerned about rhyming than moving.
We do not know
We do not know when or how we shall die.
Will we even have time to say goodbye?
A deadly disease or quick accident,
In peaceful sleep or by something violent?
We do not know where we go at the end.
Heaven, Hell, Nowhere, or does it depend?
How do we prepare for this great mystery,
What acts and beliefs define our history?
We do not know why we love or hate so
Until we acknowledge it all has to go.
Life matters more because Death’s at the door,
Merging as one with eternity’s law.
We do not know when or how we shall die,
May God give us grace for our final sigh.