Beloveds, today we gather in both sorrow and gratitude to honor the life of X. We have come to shoulder this season of grief together. We lean on each other as we weep, as we give thanks, and as we tend anything that feels unresolved within.
As we do, we find ourselves wrapped in the care of Love. The Love that brings all life into being and the Love that we all return to in death. We remember that the veil between the living and the dead is thin and that Love keeps us close to one another forever.
In the assurance of this truth, we bear witness to the life of X, and their presence that persists among us.
*Pastor introduces self, family, and makes necessary announcements*
Gifter of life,
Companion in death,
let your peace come and dwell among us.
As we open our hearts to you, to grief, to one another,
may we have the courage to embrace what we need to feel or not feel,
casting no judgment upon our souls.
With respect for the complexity of human life,
we welcome differences in practices of mourning
and we honor the varied relationships to X present here.
Through it all, may we support one another in word, action, and presence.
And may the spirit of X be an ongoing teacher,
a source of wisdom forever available to us.
Reading and/or Song
Reading and/or Song
Pastor offers instruction for brief sharing of gratitude and remembrance from loved ones.
Or – pastor invites those who have been asked by the family to prepare remarks in advance.
Moment of silence
We now pause in silence to honor X’s presence in the world – [their] contributions to our lives, all [their] loved ones, and the collective whole. We hold space with gratitude for the positive ripple effects of [their] life beyond the reach of our knowledge. Love weaves our lives together in ways we cannot fully comprehend. And so, in silence, let us honor the breadth and depth of [their] life’s reach – the known and unknown.
Prayer of release
with gratitude for all the gifts you bestowed in the world through X…
in the assurance that [their] presence among us continues through our lives and love…
in acknowledgment that it always feels too soon to let go…
in confession that we hold regrets and remorse – conflict untended or words left unspoken…
and in faith that Love Eternal welcomes X with open arms,
we entrust X to your embrace,
to the welcome of the earth – our beginning and our place of return,
and to the rhythms of life that remain even through death.
Receive X into your care and may peace be [their] final resting place.
Blessing of dismissal
May this blessed community and all who knew and loved X
go with the peace that comes from gathering in Love’s Presence.
May the memories of X be your companion.
May they bring laughter and joy when your heart is heavy.
May they bring strength when the days are long.
May they be a reminder of the gifts of life –
so precious and short.
On this day and all the days before us,
may the Sacred uphold you
and encourage you in furthering the knowledge and presence of
the love that sustains us through all things.
Go with peace, beloveds. Love goes with you.
Optional additional components
- Consider how you might involve intimate loved ones who wish to participate through song, by reading a part of the service, or writing their own prayer/invitation.
- Instead of inviting everyone/anyone to come to the microphone to speak of their experiences with X, consider inviting all to share a single word or phrase that speaks to the memory of that person.
- Talk to the family about the possibility of creating a ritual with invited friends/family members. They may choose to pre-plan a word, phrase, or 2-3 sentences that thread together the impact of X on their lives. As each person comes to microphone, shares their piece, they may take a flower from a vase and place it on the altar or casket as the people respond, “We give thanks.”
COVID-19 specific things to note
- If this funeral occurs during the times of social quarantine so that you are on ZOOM or another digital meeting space, consider virtual rituals that might be offered. This may include a ritual where each person has candle to light during a specified time in front of their computer. It may include incorporating art, if anyone in the family is inclined. It could be as simple as bringing a symbol of something that the person deeply valued (animals, humor, a particular matter of justice, books, a hobby, or some other intimate passion) and having the pastor or a family member draw out collective meaning from it.
- Consider the possibility of a virtual altar. If you can create a space of beauty visible from your camera, you may invite people in advance to bring something to the service that they would like to place on that altar. During the time of witness, they may briefly share why they brought that item. While it cannot be placed on the altar physically, you may consider a symbolic action to be taken after each sharing. Perhaps, you may light a tea light on the altar in your space, as if a placeholder for the item.
- Whatever physical location you find yourself while presiding digitally, make sure that you have properly tested your technology well beforehand, that you are comfortable with the tech controls you are using, that you will not be interrupted by phone calls or housemates, and that your background on the screen is not distracting.
- If you are offering your services for someone who is not a part of your congregation or community, be mindful of not making assumptions about their religious/spiritual inclinations. Remember that all involved may not be of a singular mind or heart about the person who died or about their eternal existence. If your contact asks you to incorporate a more rigid religious approach, try to gently include references that will allow others who are mourning to find room too. With sensitivity, this can be done in most cases without interruption of the asks that have been made of you.
- If relevant to the death, you may add to or adapt the liturgy to include:
- Words of assurance that God/the Sacred/Love was with the beloved when they died even if no loved ones were able to be there.
- A mention of care for others facing the same death, and the ties that bind broken hearts together in this time.
- A way to help the grieving individuals feel connected to one another across geography.
- Consider having the zoom link open a bit early on your end – have light music and a pretty visual waiting as people arrive. You do not necessarily need to be at the computer yourself until the service is to begin.
- As you would for any other community service, ask the family about preferred dress code (formal attire, robe, collar, casual)
Optional poems and readings
Your body is away from me
but there is a window open
from my heart to yours.
From this window, like the moon
I keep sending news secretly.
“i am of the earth
and to the earth I shall return once more
life and death are old friends
and I am the conversation between them
i am their late-night chatter
their laughter and tears
what is there to be afraid of
if I am the gift they give to each other
this place never belonged to me anyway
i have always been theirs”
– rupi kaur
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
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.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
(Or, check out enfleshed’s modern rendering of this scripture)
Tis a Fearful Thing
by Yehuda HaLevi
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.
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!
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.
Into the Heart
By Rabindranath Tagore
This song of mine will wind its music around you
like the fond arms of love
This song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.
When you are alone it will sit by your side
and whisper in your ear;
When you are in a crowd it will fence you in with aloofness.
My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams;
It will transport your heart to the verge of the unknown.
It will be like a faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.
My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the
heart of things.
And when my voice is silent in death,
my song will speak in your living heart.
Funeral Blues by W H Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
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 the 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 rest,
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.