Coping with mortality and loss is a challenge for people from all cultures and beliefs. As those with naturalist views cannot envision such things as everlasting life or perfection in heaven, different images are needed to consider what has occurred and what it means, and to comfort those who are grieving. Some resources that may be use for this are shown below, including:
…..With scientific perspectives
…..With philosophical perspectives
…..That consider memory
…..That consider grieving
Poems with Scientific Perspectives
Dear Lovely Death
by Langston Hughes
Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing
Never to kill
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.
Eulogy from a Physicist
by Aaron Freeman
You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy — every vibration, every bit of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child — remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.
And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.
And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure — that scientists have measured precisely — the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.
Poems with philosophical perspectives
(from Roman gravestones)
I was not. I have been.
I am not. I do not mind.
Letter to Menoeceus
Become accustomed to the belief that death is
nothing to us.
For all good and evil consist in sensation,
but death is deprivation of sensation.
And therefore a right understanding
that death is nothing to us
makes the mortality of life enjoyable,
not because it adds to it an infinite span of time,
but because it takes away the craving for immortality.
For there is nothing terrible in life for the man
who has truly comprehended
that there is nothing terrible
in not living.
Mystery of Life
by Robert G. Ingersoll
Before the sublime mystery of life and spirit,
the mystery of infinite space
and endless time, we stand in reverent awe . . .
This much we know:
we are at least one phase of the immortality of life.
The mighty stream of life flows on, and, in this mighty stream,
we too flow on . . .
not lost . . . but each eternally significant.
For this I feel: The spirit never betrays the person
who trusts it.
Physical life may be defeated but life goes on;
goodness lives and love is immortal.
Poems that consider memory
by Margaret Mead
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea — remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty — remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity — remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, your memories of the times we loved,
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.
We Remember Them
by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer
At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.
Memory Can Tell Us Only What We Were
by Richard Fife
Memory can tell us only what we were,
In company with those we loved;
It cannot help us find out what each of us,
Alone, must now become.
Yet, no person is really alone;
Those who live no more still echo
Within our thoughts and words,
And what they did has become
Woven into what we are.
by Felix Adler
The dead are not dead if we have loved them truly.
In our own lives we can give them a kind of immortality.
Let us arise and take up the work they have left unfinished.
Poems that consider grieving
To One in Sorrow
by Grace Noll Crowell
“When will I be myself again?”
Some Tuesday, perhaps, In the late afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea,
And a cookie;
Or Wednesday, same time or later,
You will stir from a nap and see her;
You will pick up the phone to call her;
You will hear her voice – unexpected advice –
And maybe argue.
And you will not be frightened,
And you will not be sad,
And you will not be alone,
Not alone at all,
And your tears will warm you.
But not today,
And not tomorrow,
And not tomorrow’s tomorrow,
But some day,
Some Tuesday, late in the afternoon,
Sitting quietly with a cup of tea,
And a cookie;
And you will be yourself again.
While You Live
When I am dead
Cry for me a little,
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
It is not good for you
Or your wife or your husband
Or your children
To allow your thoughts to dwell
Too long on the dead.
Think of me now and again
As I was in life
At some moment it is pleasant to recall,
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you, too, in peace.
While you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.
by Helen Lowrie Marshall
I’d like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I’d like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I’d like to leave and echo
whispering down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing
times and bright and sunny days.
I’d like the tears of those who
grieve, to dry before the sun
Of happy memories that I leave
When life is done.
Moving Sing Well!
by Joyce Grenfell
If I should die before the rest of you,
Break not a flower, nor inscribe a stone,
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known,
Weep if you must:
Parting is hell,
But life goes on
So . . . sing as well!