Compiled by Nancy Jean Whitehead July 2003 Funeral Service Kit The purpose of the Funeral Service We need funerals to:
say ‘goodbye’ for the last time
provide a focus for our grief
enable our family and friends to share our grief and express their own grief
celebrate and give thanks for the life of the person who has died
affirm our hope and faith at a time when we are vulnerable
This kit offers suggestions in designing a service and a selection of resources.
Funerals are no longer the automatic prerogative of the church. More and more people are turning to Funeral Celebrants to provide the appropriate ritual for them at this particular time in their lives. However, we still provide funeral services for our own parish people and those who retain some remnants of previous church involvement and who want the church involved in this last stage of life.
It is important, therefore, that any funeral service is personal, relevant and appropriate for the people concerned. While the basic structure of the funeral is the same, the challenge is to work with a family to make the service right for them.
The role of the Minister or Funeral Celebrant is to empower and encourage the family so that they feel they have control of the situation. It may sometimes be necessary for the Minister/Celebrant to exercise a moderating influence and for this reason it is important that the planning of the Funeral Service is not rushed. My experience has been that people who have chosen to wait an extra day or two have never regretted it as the extra days have allowed time to consider the content and structure of the service especially things like special music or readings.
It is important that if there are children in the immediate family, that they are involved with what is happening and encouraged to contribute. Children are usually very matter of fact about death and are willing to be involved in some way. Encourage children to see the body and to put things in the casket if they would like to do so. This is easy if the body is brought home, but is also easily done when the body remains at the rooms of the Funeral Director.
It is important too that we don’t hide our grief from children. They need to know that we are sad when someone we loved has died, and they also need to be able to express how they feel. If we are open with them at the time of death, it will be much easier for them to broach the subject with us later when further questions may arise. When we hide our tears from our children we are reinforcing the idea that adults don’t cry and that tears are something to be ashamed of and hidden. This sort of attitude can make it much harder for them to be able to grieve well in their own adult life.
We also need to recognise that children may feel very differently about an older person who has died than we do. When, for example, an elderly relative, who has lived with family for many years dies, grandchildren may well be relieved because now their parents will be able to spend time with them rather than all the energy going into caring for the elderly grandparent. Allow children to express how they feel without passing judgment on them.
Designing the Service I try to involve the family or close friends as much as possible in a funeral service. This is particularly important when I have not met the person concerned. I have found that, with encouragement, families are usually willing to speak about the person who has died or are able to suggest a close friend who would be willing to do so. An alternative is to get the family to write what they would like to say and for me to read it.
If there are family overseas or unable to attend the funeral, I offer to placed a lighted candle beside the casket to represent those family members and I mention this in my introductory remarks.
The key points for the service are that it is:
(a) carefully prepared
There is nothing worse than attending a service where the Minister/Celebrant gets names or relationships wrong. Don’t rely on your memory – write it down!
Use the name of the deceased as often as you can. If they had a nickname use it, and check how the family wish to have the person committed. My mother-in-law’s name was Esme, but she was always known as Snow. The Minister leading the funeral knew this and at the time of the committal used words like “the earthly life of Esme … affectionately known as Snow, has come to an end...” This kept the ritual real for her family and friends.
Encourage participation by others through readings, playing a musical instrument, eulogy, etc.
(d) recognise where people are at – both the chief mourners and others in the congregation
In the case of a sudden death all present will still be in a state of shock, but when death comes after a long illness, family and close friends may well have moved beyond this and it will not be helpful for them if the service does not recognise this.
(e) include elements of the past, the present and the future.
It is good to share the stories from the past, it is vital to express the reality of the present and it is essential to look to the future.
(f) keep within time limits imposed at cemetery / crematorium chapels.
It is distressing for both the family involved in your service and the family of the next service if your service runs over time. If the service is likely to be larger or longer than usual it is advisable to make a double-booking at the Chapel.
(g) resist the temptation to preach
The funeral is not the time to evangelise. It is appropriate to speak briefly of Christian faith and hope when the family concerned are involved in the church. It is not appropriate to try to rationalise a tragic death by saying that it is God’s will or that the person has gone to a better place! Our faith and hope can equally well be expressed through our prayers and hymns and our sensitivity to the needs of the family.
Lowering of the Casket When the funeral is held either at the crematorium chapel or at the graveside, I always ask the family if they wish to see the casket lowered. For most families it is not an issue, but for some, usually because of bad experience in the past, they prefer not to be present when the casket is lowered.
Returned Services Association Funerals
The ritual used by the RSA for their members is important and meaningful. I believe the appropriate time for the RSA ritual is just before the words of committal, or if the committal is to be at the graveside, then just before the Benediction. Usually the President of the Branch will come forward, offer condolences to the family on behalf of the RSA and then share briefly about the deceased. The Last Post is then played followed by the recitation of the Ode and then Reveille. Members of the RSA are then invited to come forward and place their poppies on the casket before returning to their seats. The words of the Ode are included in the readings in this kit.
Funeral Directors Get to know the local Funeral Directors. You will be working with them and their support and advice can be invaluable particularly if you are in a new town. The Funeral Directors know the local scene including cut off times for newspaper death notices, suitable venues for both the service and for refreshments, what facilities are available at the cemetery including chapel or committal lounge, whether family are able to fill the grave themselves, types of headstone or memorial plaque permitted. They also know the time restrictions on Chapel use at cemeteries.
Whenever possible I try to visit the family at the same time as the Funeral Director. While the Funeral Director is gathering the data he/she needs I can be noting the family details. I find it helpful to be part of the discussions – often simply as an observer – when decisions are being made as to time and place of the funeral, catering and so on. I am also available to protect the family if I believe they are being pressured into making decisions too quickly.
Funeral Directors should leave the family an estimate of the costs of the funeral. If not, ask for one. If the family are in difficult financial circumstances or are concerned about paying for the funeral talk to the Funeral Director about it. There may be simple changes that can be made that will reduce the costs. Funeral Directors also have information about the Funeral Grant available in some circumstances from WINZ.
Printout of the Service I always offer families a complete “script” of the service including hymns, prayers, readings and where possible the eulogy. If there are prepared speakers, I ask for their notes so they can be included. When these are not available, I list the people who have spoken. If the family want a video or audio recording of the service this can be arranged through the Funeral Director, but bear in mind this will add to the cost of the funeral.
Looking after Yourself
No funeral is easy, although some are less difficult than others. All funerals take an emotional toll on the Minister/Celebrant and it is important to recognise this. Try not to have any other scheduled activities on the day of a funeral and give yourself some time and space to relax and unwind. I would also strongly recommend that all Ministers / Celebrants have a professional supervisor.
The material in this resource is intended to be used as a starter to encourage you to adapt it for your own use. It covers the ideas of the author, not the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
I welcome people on behalf of the family and thank them for being there. I then introduce myself and express my sense of privilege in leading this service.
Information sharing about the service, refreshments, memorial books etc. .
Statement of Purpose
It is important to state clearly why we are here. “We are here because …. has died, but more importantly we are here because of his/her life…”
These can be from the Bible, poetry, or any other particular readings that the family feel are appropriate.
Eulogy / Sharing of memories
Prayer of Thanksgiving
I always include a time of silence in this prayer inviting those present to make their own thanksgiving to God for all that … has meant to them. I often end this prayer by inviting those present to share in the Lord’s Prayer.
Hymns, Songs and other Music Singing together is a good way of involving the whole congregation in the funeral service, but the music needs to be chosen very carefully. It can be most uncomfortable for everyone if a hymn chosen is generally unknown by most of the congregation. If a family likes the words of a particular hymn, there is no reason why those words can’t be read rather than sung.
Music can also be used as part of the eulogy or the prayer of thanksgiving. When a person has had a favourite piece of music I have often played it at the end of the eulogy or used it instead of a thanksgiving prayer (for those who want a “secular” service). As the music plays the congregation can be invited to reflect on the person and what they have meant to them.
The most popular funeral hymns of recent years are:
# WOV CH 2d ed. CH 3d ed
Abide with me 502 286 695
All things bright and beautiful 70 18 154
Amazing grace 56
How great thou art 628*
Now thank we all our God 14 29 368
The Lord’s my shepherd 16 Ps 23 389
* The words in With One Voice are not the same as the popular version of How Great Thou Art. The “right” words are included with the hymns in this kit.
Other Hymns used recently include:
Our life has its seasons Alleluia Aotearoa 113
Make me a channel of your peace New Journeys Songbook 100
The old rugged cross
There are also excellent funeral hymns from the Iona Community in When Grief is Raw, published by the Wild Goose Resource Group.
# WOV – With One Voice
CH 2d ed Church Hymnary 2nd Edition (Blue book)
CH 3d ed Church Hymnary 3rd Edition (Red book)
Lord of all love
(Alleluia Aotearoa 91)
1. Lord of all love, all life and death. 3. That darkest mystery is here,
giver of time and place and breath, sorrow and pity, anger, fear; hear us, as now we bring our loss conquer once more, dear Lord, death’s sting, into the presence of your cross. faith, trust and consolation bring.
2. Sing us the songs we cannot sing, 4. Though precious dust return to dust,
pardon the praise we cannot bring, in your good purpose we will trust,
speak all the words we cannot say, content to place within your care
pray for us, Lord, we humbly pray. she / he whom we love and grieve for here.
but with printed acknowledgement of the copyright owner)
Suggested alternative tune:
Dominus regit me WOV 81(i) The King of love
CH 2 438
CH 3 388(i)
How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art! When through the woods and forest glades I wander
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
But when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in,
that on the cross my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin;
When Christ shall come, with shouts of acclamation,
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
and there proclaim, “my God, how great Thou art!"
Opening Prayers 1.
Gracious and loving God, be with us as we gather to celebrate and give thanks for the life of ….. We come bringing our thoughts, our memories and our feelings about …… and we offer them to you. We remember the good times with thanksgiving. We remember the times when things were perhaps not good and these we also offer to you. We give thanks that for ….. the difficulties / frailities of this life are over and that ….. is safe in your care. At this time when our loss is new and our feelings raw, surround us with your love and strength. May we continue our lives with courage and hope for the future through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Loving God, at this time of loss and grief, may we be sustained by your strength and your love. In our times of deepest darkness, may we find your light. May your courage surround us when we are fearful. May our sadness be comforted by the warmth of your constant love. May we be open to the support and encouragement of family and friends that together we may continue our life’s journey with courage and hope. Be with us always – our rock and our sustainer. Amen.
Loving God, be with us as we face the tragic loss of ….. At times like this we are vulnerable and fragile. Help us to understand that there are some things that cannot be easily explained. As we search to find meaning in ……’s death, enable us to trust in your goodness and love. Remind us that there are no easy words of comfort that will take away our pain. Surround us with your constant love that in time we may come to feel its warmth and its power. Keep us in your constant care through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings must be chosen carefully. It is important that they reflect where the chief mourners are in terms of their grief, but also offer hope for the future. For families who have not had recent contact with the church, it is often the familiar verses perhaps learned in Sunday School that are appropriate for them. For this reason the choice of translation is important.
For many older people, the King James Version is much loved and has brought comfort to them during their lives. For others one of the modern translations – Good News, New International, New Revised Standard or Contemporary English Version - will be appropriate. It can be helpful to leave a selection of readings with a family so they can take time over the choices they make.
The readings in this resource are the ones I have used most often in recent years. There are, of course, many others. The readings included here are from the New Revised Standard Version.
I have included a selection of the sorts of readings that I have used over the past few years. They have come from a wide variety of sources including the internet. I have tried to cite the source of each one, but for some this has not been possible. As many poems that I use are still under copyright, I have included a list of first lines. These poems can be sourced from the internet. I find Google a particularly good search engine.
Some useful websites are:
Psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes,
or I will sleep the sleep of death.
and my enemies will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
. But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
. I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff – they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Psalm 31: 1- 5, 24 In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;
do not let me ever be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me.
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me.
You are indeed my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
take me out of the net that is hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.
Psalm 46: 1 – 3, 10, 11 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Psalm 61: 1 – 4 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him.
Matthew 5: 1 – 12 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 11: 28 – 30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
John 14: 1-7, 27 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
Romans 8: 28, 31b – 35, 37-39 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depths, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I Corinthians 13: 1, 4 – 8a, 13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.
II Timothy 4: 6b – 8
The time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day; and not only to me but to all who have longed for his appearing.
Revelation 21: 1-7 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples. and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”
Paraphrase of Philippians 1 Tears are for the washing away of grief.
Hope is for the building of dreams.
Love is the tender life-force that conquers death.
Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die,
life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams, for ehn dreams go,
life is a barren field frozen with snow.
It is not surprising that we cling so tenaciously to this earthly life,
for it is all that our senses can comprehend.
if only we knew what God has in store for us,
we would be able to face death completely unafraid.
For the moment, however,
our responsibilities lie here on earth.
Let us then, with courage and joy,
live that life for others, which is our high calling,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(used at RSA funerals)
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
we will remember them.
- Laurence Binyon Poems for the Fallen This too, will pass This too, will pass – O heart, say it over and over.
Out of your deepest sorrow, out of your grief,
no hurt can last forever – perhaps tomorrow will bring relief.
This too, will pass; it will spend itself:
it’s fury will die as the wind dies down with the setting sun,
Repeat it again and again, O heart, for your comfort;
this too, will pass, as surely as passed before
the old forgotten pain and the other sorrows
that once you bore;
As certain as stars at night, or dawn after darkness,
inherent as the lift of the blowing grass,
whatever your despairing or your frustration -
this too, will pass.
- Author unknown
Close Friends Close friends are truly life’s treasures.
Sometimes they know us better than we know ourselves.
With gentle honesty, they are there to guide us,
to support us, to share our laughter and our tears.
Thir presence reminds us that no matter what
we are not alone.
- Author unknown
I hold that when a person dies
His soul returns again to earth;
Arrayed in some new flesh-disguise
Another mother gives him birth.
With sturdier limbs and brighter brain
The old soul takes the road again.
Such is my own belief and trust;
This hand, this hand that holds the pen,
Has many a hundred times been dust
And turned, as dust, to dust again;
These eyes of mine have blinked and shown
In Thebes, in Troy, in Babylon.
All that I rightly think or do,
Or make, or spoil, or bless, or blast,
Is curse or blessing justly due
For sloth or effort in the past.
My life's a statement of the sum
Of vice indulged, or overcome.
And as I wander on the roads
I shall be helped and healed and blessed;
Dear words shall cheer and be as goads
To urge to heights before unguessed.
My road shall be the road I made;
All that I gave shall be repaid.
So shall I fight, so shall I tread,
In this long war beneath the stars;
So shall a glory wreathe my head,
So shall I faint and show the scars,
Until this case, this clogging mould,
Be smithied all to kingly gold.
by John Masefield
An Affirmation Believe that, in the face of loss and grief
we are free to cry out,
to protest in righteous anger,
to respect our own pain.
We believe that this never goes unheard,
that it is not lost in the
silences and depths of our sadness.
We believe it is taken into the heart of God
who weeps with us,
who walks with us through every moment
that has been and is to come.
We believe, that as we bow our heads,
the Spirit covers us with her bright wings,
sorrowing in our sorrow and lifting our faces
to the warmth and love which waits for us,
cherishing us and giving us
strength for this unknown journey.
- Author unknown
Travelling the road of life creates many memories -
memories that live forever in the minds and hearts
of those whose lives were touched during the journey.
And when the journey on earth is completed
we find peace in the belief
that a new and better journey begins.
- Author unknown
Be free, be strong, be proud of who you have been Be free, be strong, be proud of who you have been.
Know that you will be mourned and missed;
that no-one can replace you,
that you have loved and are beloved.
Move beyond form, flowing like water,
feeding the sunlight and the moonlight,
radiant as the stars in the night sky.
Pass the gates, enter the dark without fear
and rest until we meet again.
Go in peace, beloved (name),
travel safely with our love into the mystery of God.
adapted by Sherri Weinberg from :
"The Pagan Book of Living and Dying ' by Starhawk, 1997, HarperSanFrancisco.
Cry for me not Cry for me not, I have no pain in leaving.
Do not visit my grave for I no longer exist there.
I am in the air you breathe,
I am in the sun that warms you,
I am in the rain that fills your springs,
I am in the heaven that you dream of.
We are forever, you and I.
Find your way, I shall always step with you.
Think of me often, I shall always hear you.
Give of your love, I shall always feel you.
Know in your heart I will be with you every day.
But until we meet again, be happy
- Author unknown
Death is nothing at all
Death is nothing at all;
I have slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name;
Speak to me in the easy way you always used.
Put no difference into your tone;
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh, as we always laughed,
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort,
without the ghost of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant;
It is the same as it ever was;
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near, just around the corner.
all is well.
Henry Scott Holland
Requiem Under a wide and starry sky
dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
and I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse that you grave for me:
‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea
and the hunter home from the hill.’
- Robert Louis Stevenson
Crossing the Bar Sunset and evening star
and one clear call for me!
And may there be no maoning at the bar
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 of boundless deep
turns home again.
Twilight and evening bell
and after that the dark
and may there be no sadness of farewell
when I embark.
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
the flood may bear me far
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
when I have crossed the bar.
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Other Poetry / Readings There is a wealth of appropriate material for funerals available. I have listed the first lines or titles of some of the other poetry I have used in recent years but cannot print here because most are still under copyright. The words of these poems are available on the internet and I find Google a very user-friendly search engine.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep”
“Dear friends I go, but do not weep”
“Stop all the clocks” – W.H. Auden
“When we feel we have nothing left to give” - Helen Steiner Rice
“ I carried you in hope” (Poem for a stillborn baby)
Instructions – Arnold Crompton
“Miss me but let me go”
There is also “Grief” by Joy Cowley in Aotearoa Psalms
I have found this particularly useful at a Memorial Service and also at an annual Service of Remembrance held for the community each Christmas.
This meditation needs to be taken very slowly with a significant pause after each section. Allow people plenty of time and space. I invite you to picture in your mind a place of relaxation and rest. It might be a beach, in the bush, beside a river, on a hill or mountain, in a garden.
Pause As you picture this place, walk along in a relaxed, quiet way. Feel the air, smell the freshness, listen to the sounds around you.
Pause As you walk along, you can see your loved one in the distance coming towards you. When they stop beside you, take some time to say the things you would like to say.
Pause Begin to bring the conversation to an end. Say goodbye and watch your love one begin to walk away.
Pause Watch them move into the distance. You feel sad that they have gone, but let them go.
Pause Slowly begin to return to this place. Gradually become aware of those who are sitting around you. Come back gently.
Prayers of Thanksgiving
Loving God, we thank you for the life we have shared with (Name). We remember all the good things we shared with (Name) which are now part of our history. We thank you for her/his gifts and skills and the way they were used to benefit her/his family and his/her community. We know that our lives were blessed by (Name). May we continue to live our lives inspired by our memories of (Name).
(Name) has been significant in the lives of all of us, so now, in silence, let us each make our own thanksgiving to God for all that he/she has meant to us. (Pause)
God of compassion, be especially with (names of family) and all who mourn today. Surround them with your love and peace. Help us all in the days ahead and enable us to trust in your goodness and mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God, source of life and love. We give thanks because we have seen you in (Name) who has died. We thank you for his/her life and for all that she/he has meant and will continue to mean for us.
We thank you that for (Name) frailty and illness are now things of the past and that she/he is experiencing the fullness of life we can only find in you.
We pray for (Name’s) family that they may be comforted at this time of separation and loss. May family bonds grow stronger and may we be bearers of your love and hope to them all.
As we honour (Name) we commit ourselves to live for each other and to make life not only bearable but also joyful.
Lord, give us all we need for rejoicing, all we need for hope and peace. be with us here and everywhere; now and always; fulfiller of our past, strength of our present and promise of our future, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer before Committal 1.
Loving God, help us to see death for what it really is:
the end of poverty and the beginning of riches,
the end of frustration and the beginning of fulfillment,
the end of fear and the beginning of tranquility,
the end of pain and the beginning of strength. Amen.
Gracious God, creator of all life, we now commend (Name into your keeping. Comfort those who grieve and may they know the assurance of your love in the days ahead.
Words of Committal
(Name’s) life has come to a close. Her/his body has served the purpose for which it was wonderfully brought into being. In love and with dignity we commit her/his body to be cremated / buried. That body now returns to the elements from which it came; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust but (Name) in her/his essential self lives on in our memories.
The long life of (Name) has ended. He/She has been an important part of the lives of all of here today. Now it is time to let her/him go as with love and dignity we commit his/her body to be cremated. (Name’s) life has ended, but his/her stories will continue to be told and he/she will be remembered by us all.
(Name), all of us here have been touched by your love. We thank you for all that you have been to us. We will not forget.
The earthly life of (Name) has come to a close. His/her body has served the purpose for which it was wonderfully brought into being. In love and with dignity we commit his/her body to be cremated / buried in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hear the words of the Gospel:
Peace I leave with you; my own peace I give to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
It is now time to leave. May the love of friends, the radiance of memory, and the power of love fill us all with courage, strength, peace and joy; and may the grace ...
Go forth into the world in peace, be strong and courageous. Hold on to that which is good. Love and serve the Lord rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit and may the peace of the Lord be with you always.
Take courage, be confident and strong. Shed tears and allow yourselves to grieve well. Live in hope, confident that the future is in the hands of our loving God.
Benediction / Blessing 1.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with you now and forever more. Amen.
Go from this place with courage and a quiet mind and the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you always. Amen.
May the peace and love of God who creates, nurtures, redeems and sustains us, be with us all. Amen.
Other Resources McRae-McMahon, Dorothy, The glory of blood, sweat and tears: liturgies for living and dying. Melbourne, JBCE, 1996.
Malcouronne, Brian, Honouring our loved ones
Books for Children Varley, Susan, Badger’s parting gifts, Fontana, Picture Lions, 1984
Bryant-Mole, Karen, Death, Wayland (Publishers) Ltd., 1984
Tonkin, Lois, Everybody hurts sometimes., Christchurch, Port Hills Press, 1997
Acknowledgements Every attempt has been made to ensure that no copyright material is included in this kit without the permission of the authors. Some of the material included has been adapted from the earlier edition of this kit but most has come from resources I have gathered or material I have written myself. It is possible that I have used something without realising its source and if so I apologise for not acknowledging it.