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#1
Old 09-04-2012, 06:37 PM
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Nonreligious words/speech at a funeral

My granddad died some days ago. He had a long and good life (94 years) and it didn't come as a surprise.
Offer condoleances if you must, but it was pretty much for the best. I'm stuck with something else; my sister's going to read something from the bible. I was asked if I wanted to read a verse- as an atheist, I'm not big on the bible.

As for how I feel about death, it's something along the lines of:
Quote:
"A hundred years ago, I wasn't. That didn't bug me all that much. A hundred years from now, I won't be. I can't see that inconveniencing me all that much, either."
Would anyone here know of a suitable poem, quotation or similar to read at a funeral?

(If there happen to be some folks from the Netherlands here; Dutch quotes would be nice. If not, I can manage.)

Last edited by MostlyClueless; 09-04-2012 at 06:37 PM.
#2
Old 09-04-2012, 07:09 PM
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Even if you're an atheist, there's nothing wrong with reading a verse from the bible if there's something in it that is especially appropriate to your granddad, or if he himself was deeply religious. A funeral is about honoring his beliefs and the things he cared about, after all.

That said, there's tons of beautiful (and secular) poetry and verse out there, but it's difficult to recommend anything without knowing anything about your granddad.
#3
Old 09-04-2012, 07:30 PM
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Lots of good resources for Atheist or Secular funerals here: http://ffrf.org/news/timely-topics/poetry-readings/

I'm particularly fond of this one:

Our Lives Matter
by M. Maureen Killoran

We come together from the diversity of our grieving,
to gather in the warmth of this community
giving stubborn witness to our belief that
in times of sadness, there is room for laughter.
In times of darkness, there always will be light.
May we hold fast to the conviction
that what we do with our lives matters
and that a caring world is possible after all.
#4
Old 09-04-2012, 07:32 PM
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Oh, yes, this one may capture your sentiment nicely, in a longer format that's not obviously areligious, but is.

No Single Thing Abides
by Lucretius, 96-55 BCE

No single thing abides; but all things flow.
Fragment to fragment clings—the things thus grow
Until we know and name them. By degrees
They melt, and are no more the things we know.

Globed from the atoms falling slow or swift
I see the suns, I see the systems lift
Their forms; and even the systems and the suns
Shall go back slowly to the eternal drift.

You too, oh earth—your empires, lands, and seas—
Least with your stars, of all the galaxies,
Globed from the drift like these, like these you too
Shalt go. You are going, hour by hour, like these.

Nothing abides. The seas in delicate haze
Go off; those mooned sands forsake their place;
And where they are, shall other seas in turn
Mow with their scythes of whiteness other bays.

The seeds that once were we take flight and fly,
Winnowed to earth, or whirled along the sky,
Not lost but disunited. Life lives on.
It is the lives, the lives, the lives, that die.

Last edited by WhyNot; 09-04-2012 at 07:32 PM.
#5
Old 09-04-2012, 07:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot View Post
Lots of good resources for Atheist or Secular funerals here: http://ffrf.org/news/timely-topics/poetry-readings/

I'm particularly fond of this one:

Our Lives Matter
by M. Maureen Killoran

We come together from the diversity of our grieving,
to gather in the warmth of this community
giving stubborn witness to our belief that
in times of sadness, there is room for laughter.
In times of darkness, there always will be light.
May we hold fast to the conviction
that what we do with our lives matters
and that a caring world is possible after all.
No offense, but this is the most dreadful piece of poetry I've come across lately. It has all the charm and banality of an MSW thesis or a UU sermon.

Last edited by Kimmy_Gibbler; 09-04-2012 at 07:58 PM.
#6
Old 09-04-2012, 08:22 PM
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Don't go with poetry. Go with prose. Write what you feel about your grandfather: the good times, the funny times, the things that makes him stick in your mind.

I will be more memorable than a poem.
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#7
Old 09-04-2012, 09:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimmy_Gibbler View Post
No offense, but this is the most dreadful piece of poetry I've come across lately. It has all the charm and banality of an MSW thesis or a UU sermon.
Kimmy's critique has more eloquence than the poem!

I wouldn't want that poem read at my funeral.
#8
Old 09-04-2012, 09:31 PM
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How about John Donne's famous one; can be considered as religious, or not, depending on your own prism:

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Donne
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
#9
Old 09-04-2012, 10:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MostlyClueless View Post
My granddad died some days ago. He had a long and good life (94 years) and it didn't come as a surprise.
Offer condoleances if you must, but it was pretty much for the best. I'm stuck with something else; my sister's going to read something from the bible. I was asked if I wanted to read a verse- as an atheist, I'm not big on the bible.

As for how I feel about death, it's something along the lines of:
Quote:
"A hundred years ago, I wasn't. That didn't bug me all that much. A hundred years from now, I won't be. I can't see that inconveniencing me all that much, either."
Would anyone here know of a suitable poem, quotation or similar to read at a funeral?
That quote is about your philosophy, not necessarily his, and would come across as unfeeling. Unless he said similar things you need something else entirely, IMO.

Do you need to read something someone else wrote? Me, I'd just talk about his life and my relationship with him and my feelings about his life and his death.
#10
Old 09-04-2012, 10:35 PM
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When my mother died, by suicide, she was cremated, and we buried the ashes in a lovely shady place she had loved in life.

I quoted from Cordwainer Smith:

"Out in the garden of death, our young
have tasted the valiant taste of fear.
With muscular arm and reckless tongue,
they have won, and lost, and escaped us here."

When my father passed away, from natural causes, I quoted from Shakespeare:

"Fear no more the heat o' the sun;
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers come to dust."

Either or both of these may be a bit too nihilistic for many people, but so, perhaps, would be the line cited in the OP.

Tailor your statements for those about you. Avoid giving offense, even unintentional offense, even offense that they, themselves, may arrogantly project onto something innocent you say. Don't surrender your beliefs...but moderate them, as far as you feel you can, to accommodate others. A funeral is a social occasion, more than it is a private or personal one.
#11
Old 09-04-2012, 11:29 PM
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There's always Zelazny's Agnostic's Prayer:


Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
#12
Old 09-04-2012, 11:55 PM
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I used this for my grandpa and dad, both blokes didn't like churches.

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 circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
#13
Old 09-05-2012, 12:13 AM
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A funeral is not a place to take a stand for atheism. Nobody there cares what you think about religion. If you can't just read a bible verse, then take the suggestion above and just talk about your grandfather, leaving religion out of it.
#14
Old 09-05-2012, 01:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
A funeral is not a place to take a stand for atheism.
It was never intended to be.

Know those preachers, who take every funeral to remind everyone that you'll burn in hell? This is not that.

The only thing I'm looking for are some words to speak at a funeral that were not from a book where our saviour tells us I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.

If you want to discuss the validity of bible texts at a funeral, please do so somewhere else.
#15
Old 09-05-2012, 02:20 AM
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Here's something that fits with your quote. And, generally, is probably my favourite poem as well. May not be appropriate for a funeral though.Sic Vita, by Henry King

Like to the falling of a star,
Or as the flights of eagles are,
Or like the fresh spring's gaudy hue,
Or silver drops of morning dew,
Or like a wind that chafes the flood,
Or bubbles which on water stood:
Even such is man, whose borrowed light
Is straight called in, and paid to night.
The wind blows out, the bubble dies;
The spring entombed in autumn lies;
The dew dries up, the star is shot;
The flight is past, and man forgot.

Last edited by bldysabba; 09-05-2012 at 02:21 AM.
#16
Old 09-05-2012, 05:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
A funeral is not a place to take a stand for atheism. Nobody there cares what you think about religion. If you can't just read a bible verse, then take the suggestion above and just talk about your grandfather, leaving religion out of it.
Don't be a jerk.

The OP didn't say a thing about standing for atheism, nor did s/he ask for subversive suggestions. S/he asked for constructive input that satisfied both the OP's worldview and that was properly respectful to both the deceased and the attendant ceremony.

Your post was useless, uninvited, polemic, and the very definition of a threadshit.

Stop being a jerk, jerk.

OP, this is the first draft of the eulogy I (an agnostic) gave for my grandfather. I changed about 25% of it on the fly, but I don't have a copy of what I actually said. Everyone whose opinion I care about loved it, including my grandmother. Speak from the heart, be sincere, and let the rest take care of itself.



"We gather here today to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of a man very dear to all of us. I’ve thought a lot about my grandfather in the past few days and--odd as it may sound--have found myself smiling constantly. I’ve dwelt upon what this man meant to me, and our times together. With your indulgence I would like to share a few of those.

My grandfather was not a vocally expressive man. He wasn’t one to tell us that he loved us, or to express his affection in words. Instead he was a man of quiet action who expressed his feelings by his deeds. One of my most enduring memories of childhood is sitting in the cab of his truck with the sunlight warming me all through while we tried to corral the cattle. He would hide two candy bars behind the seat of his truck, one each for my brother and I. When we figured that out and started searching for the candy bars he stopped, because it was supposed to be a treat, not something expected. Of course he could always be cajoled into a candy bar and pop when we stopped at Gene’s Fina, which was often.

I remember the day that I was eleven years old and we were doing some work over at Aunt Mert’s house. He told me to run over and pull that truck up closer so that it could be used. I moved that truck all of twenty yards, but I felt so big because I had driven! Over the next three years–until I was legally licensed–he taught me how to drive on that long trip from our house to his. I still hear his tutoring, “45 is fast enough on these back roads,” “stay to the right on the hills – you can’t see what’s coming,” and “pay attention to the road in front of you.” Of course he cheerfully ignored that last admonition himself – driving
with his arms folded across the steering wheel and his eyes on the crops and cattle to either side of him, but rarely on the road.

When I was 14 I skipped school for the first, and last, time. Timmy and I drove around on the backroads, just enjoying a spring day, before heading over to find Gramps to ask him to call in and excuse us. He told us not to make it a habit, but called in for us. Grandma raised the roof when she found out, but Gramps knew about boys and springtime.

Soon after that he fell ill and was more and more confined to a chair or a couch for most of the day. After the funeral for my great-grandfather he lay on the couch in a side room while most people congregated in the other room. My cousin Andy pulled Wes and I aside and said “C’mon, let’s go mess with Gramps–he’s lonely.” So we went in, three strapping young lads, and debated loudly whether the three of us could take Gramps out in a wrestling match. Gramps chewed us out and fire flickered in his eyes – but that fire was love because we were his boys.

While I was in Ireland studying I communicated with everyone via email. I’m horrible at writing letters – they’re just so archaic for one raised with computers. But I took the time to write exactly one letter that year, and I am very glad that I did. I wrote a letter to my Grandparents telling them how much it meant to me that they were in my life. I told them that I appreciated them moving in to take care of us when Dad was called up for Desert Storm. I am very glad that I wrote that letter when I did–that I told this wonderful man what he meant to me before it was too late.

Let me take a brief moment to the say the same to Grandma. Grandma, your family is not impressed with you. Your family is not appreciative of you. No, your family is overawed with you. You cared for your husband, cared for your mother, and cared for yourself with energy and a love that is immeasurable. You did things you never had to do because you had to. And you loved and
cared for every one of us in your sprawling family.

To close, I mourn today. I also rejoice today. My Grandfather lived a long and full life. He was born, grew up and married. He raised his children and loved his wife. And at the end he had not only grandchildren but also great-grandchildren, and that spark in his eye for the ones he loved. We return you now to the earth, and are sad to do so, but rejoice for a life so full and proud. I hope to be as rich as he was before I leave this earth... so I’ll be seeing you Gramps, but not for a while."
#17
Old 09-05-2012, 06:38 AM
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A friend read Segismundo's final monologue, from Calderón's La vida es sueño (Life's a dream), at the funeral of his grandfather. This is an English translation, there may be translations to Dutch available.
#18
Old 09-05-2012, 07:00 AM
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Moderator Notes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakminster View Post
A funeral is not a place to take a stand for atheism. Nobody there cares what you think about religion. If you can't just read a bible verse, then take the suggestion above and just talk about your grandfather, leaving religion out of it.
Let's not hijack or turn this thread into a debate about religious beliefs or lack thereof. The OP was simply asking for some advice about poems.


Quote:
Originally Posted by azraiel View Post
Stop being a jerk, jerk.
Let's cut out the insults in this forum as well. You should already know the place for those if you need to use them.
#19
Old 09-05-2012, 07:29 AM
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The last part of Tennyson's Ulysses is good, beginning from "There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sails". I also like "Crossing the Bar" but it would go awkwardly without the line about meeting your Pilot face to face.
#20
Old 09-05-2012, 07:47 AM
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While the bible may have quotes that are objectionable to you, it also has many quotes that may be useful from (for instance) Psalms and Proverbs. There's lots of good poetry about the fragility of life (e.g., comparing life to the grass the grows and withers, or to potsherds that are easily shattered.) Part of what you are expected to say is an expression of your own feelings, but part of what you are expected to say is an acknowledgement of the feelings of the other mourners.
#21
Old 09-05-2012, 08:02 AM
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At my grandfather's funeral I wrote and read out a simple poem about my memories of him. It was a mixture of the serious and the lighthearted, and went down really well. But as others have said, don't feel you have to write a poem, prose is fine - and it can be as short or as long (within reason!) as you want.
#22
Old 09-05-2012, 08:30 AM
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How about the Book of Ecclesiastes? That's always a crowd-pleaser.


I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.
Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
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