All the comfort I can offer – a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye

I woke this morning to a beautiful sunny day, hearing birdsong rise unchallenged by traffic noise, seeing the sky over the valley my city nestles in free from pollution and I felt… unreal.

How can it look like this? How can it be so serene? What am I supposed to do with this Lockdown gift of peaceful beauty when I know that today, in the UK, a thousand people will die from COVID-19 and my government is so incompetent and uncaring that they haven’t provided the medical staff caring for the sick and the dying with basic protective gear?

If I were Jewish, I would say Mourner’s Kaddish today. If I was still Catholic, I would say the Prayer For The Dead. I am an atheist, so neither of these traditions is mine to call on.

Yet, I find myself looking for comfort, for something to say to mark the passing of the dead, so I offer this poem, by Mary Elizabeth Frye. Hers are the words I’d wish to have read at my own funeral. I find them beautiful and brave. They give all the comfort I can honestly offer.

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’s rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.

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