Hail the Traveler

Hail the Traveler! We commit you back from where you came — to the arms of your ancestors. May there be peace where there was anger. May there be healing where there was hurt. Go quickly to the place that your old ones called home. For those who grieve for your passing, let there be healing. For those who grieve for who you were, let there be healing. For those who grieve for what you could have been, let there be healing. Hail the Traveler. We celebrate your journey.

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Blessed Are Those Who Give Meaning to Our Lives

Blessed are those who give meaning to our lives;

holy and precious is the example they leave behind.

We pray: May our sorrows diminish as we recall their strength.

May their wisdom protect us and help us to live.

Let our grief be transformed into tenderness for those who are still with us.

-- Jewish prayer

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Lie Back—and the Sea Will Hold You

Lie back daughter, let your head

be tipped back in the cup of my hand. 

Gently, and I will hold you. Spread 

your arms wide, lie out on the stream 

and look high at the gulls. A deadman’s 

float is face down. You will dive 

and swim soon enough where this tidewater 

ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe 

me, when you tire on the long thrash 

to your island, lie up, and survive. 

As you float now, where I held you 

and let go, remember when fear 

cramps your hear t what I told you: 

lie gently and wide to the light - year 

stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

-- Philip Booth

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The Old Man's Funeral

NOTE: This could of course be adapted for an older woman’s funeral too.

Ye sigh not when the sun, his course fulfilled, 
His glorious course, rejoicing earth and sky,
In the soft evening, when the winds are stilled,
Sinks where his islands of departure spread
O'er the warm-colored heaven and ruddy mountain head.

Why weep ye then for him, who, having won
The bound of man's appointed years, at last.
Life's blessings all enjoyed, life's labors done,
Serenely to his final rest has passed; 
While the soft memory of his virtues yet
Lingers like twilight hues, when the bright sun is set? 

—William Cullen Bryant

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Yizkor Reading

Shall I cry out in anger, O God,
Because Your gifts are mine but for a while? Shall I forget the blessing of health
The moment there is pain?

Shall I be ungrateful for the laughter,
the seasons of joy, the days of gladness,
when tears cloud my eyes and darken the world and my heart is heavy within me?

Shall I blot from my mind the love
I have rejoiced in when fate
leaves me bereft of shining presences that have lit my way through the years of companionship and affection?

Shall I, in days of adversity, fail to recall the hours of glory You once did grant me?

Shall I, in turmoil of need and anxiety,
Cease blessing You for the peace of former days? Shall the time of darkness put out for ever
The glow of light in which once I walked?

Give me the vision, O God, to see
that embedded in each of your gifts
is a core of eternity, undiminished and bright,
an eternity that survives the dread hours of affliction.

Those I have loved, though now beyond my view, Have given form and quality to my being.
They have led me into the wide universe
I continue to inhabit, and their presence

is more real to me than their absence.

What You give to me, O Lord, You never take away.
And bounties granted once Shed their radiance evermore. —by Morris Adler

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Marge Piercy's Kaddish

Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amein.

Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe our children’s children, blessing.

Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amein.

Blessed is the light, blessed is the darkness
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.

Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amein.

-- Marge Piercy
 

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Death is Not the End

Death is not the end

But the beginning 

Of a metamorphosis.

For matter is never destroyed 

Only transformed 

And rearranged – 

Often more perfectly.

Witness how in the moment of a caterpillar’s death 

The beauty of the butterfly is born 

And released from the prison of the cocoon 

It flies free.

-- Peter Tatchell

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As We Look Back

As we look back over time  
We find ourselves wondering  
Did we remember to thank you enough  
For all you have done for us?  
For all the times you were by our sides  
To help and support us  
To celebrate our successes  
To understand our problems  
And accept our defeats?  
Or for teaching us by your example,  
The value of hard work, good judgement,  
Courage and integrity?  
We wonder if we ever thanked you  
For the sacrifices you made.  
To let us have the very best?  
And for the simple things  
Like laughter, smiles and times we shared?  
If we have forgotten to show our  
Gratitude enough for all the things you did,  
We're thanking you now.  
And we are hoping you knew all along,  
How much you meant to us.  

-- Clare Jones

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Belief

I have to believe  
That you still exist  
Somewhere,  
That you still watch me  
Sometimes  
That you still love me  
Somehow.  

I have to believe  
That life has meaning  
Somehow  
That I am useful here  
Sometimes,  
That I make small differences  
Somewhere.  

I have to believe  
That I need to stay here  
For some time,  
That all this teaches me  
Something,  
So that I can meet you again  
Somewhere. 

-- Ann Thorp

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Advice from La Llorona

Each grief has its unique side.

Choose the one that appeals to you.

Go gently.

Your body needs energy to repair the amputation.

Humor phantom pain.


Your brain cells are soaked with salt;

connections fail unexpectedly and often.

Ask for help.

Accept help.


Read your grief like the daily newspaper:

headlines may have information you need.

Scream. Drop-kick the garbage can across the street.


Don’t feel guilty if you have a good time.

Don’t act as if you haven’t been hit by a Mack Truck.

Do things a little differently


but don’t make a lot of changes.

Revel in contradiction.

Talk to the person who died.

Give her a piece of your mind.


Try to touch someone at least once a day.

Approach grief with determination.

Pretend the finish line doesn’t keep receding.

Lean into the pain.

You can’t outrun it.

-- Deborah A. Miranda  

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Life is a Journey

Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey: 
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age; 
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing; 
From foolishness to discretion
And then perhaps to wisdom. 

From weakness to strength or
From strength to weakness
And often back again; 
From health to sickness, 
And we pray to health again. 

From offence to forgiveness, 
From loneliness to love, 
From joy to gratitude, 
From pain to compassion, 
From grief to understanding, 
From fear to faith. 

From defeat to defeat to defeat
Until, not looking backwards or ahead, 
We see that victory lies not
At some high point along the way
But in having made the journey
Step by step, 
A sacred pilgrimage. 
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey. 

--Rabbi Alvin Fine from Jewish Reform high holiday prayer book, Gates of Repentance

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Four Candles

The first candle represents our grief. 
The pain of losing you is intense. 
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.  
This second candle represents our courage. 
To confront our sorrow, 
To comfort each other, 
To change our lives. 
This third candle we light in your memory. 
For the times we laughed, 
The times we cried, 
The times we were angry with each other, 
The silly things you did, 
The caring and joy you gave us. 
This fourth candle we light for our love. 
We light this candle that your light will always shine. 
As we enter this holiday season and share this night of remembrance
with our family and friends. 
We cherish the special place in our hearts
that will always be reserved for you. 
We thank you for the gift  
your living brought to each of us. 
We love you. 
We remember you. 

-- Unknown

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The Friend

In a circle of friends, the one who dies first
Is the friend you will never forget: 
This is the death that unhinges you
From the trappings of everyday life
And makes you – suddenly – absurdly grateful
For each new breath – beginning with this one. 

This is the death that could break you apart
In every way possible; that persuades you – 
In memory of that friend – to turn away
From whatever refuses to speak to your heart
From whatever threatens to numb your soul
From whatever it is that revels in death. 

Yet this, too, is the friend you need by your side. 
Listen. Together they urge you: Live your life. 

-- Alice Kavounas

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Remember Me

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, and 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 have never gone.
-- Unknown

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Return This Body

This body that has borne her all her life from birth to death, that gave her breath to live and sight to see, that has served her every need, that has shown you the beauty of her unique person in its eyes and made you aware of her presence in your heart, and without which she would be a mystery to you; we now return to its source with the grace it deserves from us, without our attachment to it but with our lasting love for her.

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Forgive Our Errors

We gather here with ________as she lies here, newly dead.

The force of her life has just left this body that once was full of life, that she inhabited to move, to touch, to work, to love, to dance, to rest.

We give thanks to this body that held ________ through her life, and bore her unto death.

As we prepare to care for her in death, please forgive any errors we may make.

Help us make space to remember her out loud, to cry openly, and to laugh easily, as she would like.

Guide our hands to care for her tenderly, lovingly, and patiently.

Thank you for bringing us together to share in this work of love and service. Amen

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