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Poetry Help: Need a bit of verse for a funeral.


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Poetry Help: Need a bit of verse for a funeral.
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screensaver400
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-10-21, 13:17

As I mentioned in another thread, my father recently passed. I'm trying to find a poem for his memorial folder. Typically, a poem or Bible verse is included which has some significance.

The issue is... My father wasn't a great one. Most poems are either about everlasting life, or how he's in a better place, and how great the deceased was and how much he'll be missed, or they're terrible depressing, talking about how death sucks.

I found what I thought was a good compromise: "Death by Water," from T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Quote:
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.
                           A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
                           Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
My family objects. They say it's too depressing. While I agree that it is not an upbeat poem... I'm having trouble finding anything better. I don't think it's appropriate to canonize him in death, but I don't want to use a poem about how terrible he was either.

That Eliot poem, to me, is saying, "The man is dead. His actions in life are being forgotten. He is dissolving into the ocean, as if he never existed. But those left behind should look to him, and recognize that he was once 'handsome and tall,' full of promise. You should learn from his life."

Obviously The Waste Land has many more layers than that, but I think that's a good enough interpretation for my uses.

Does anyone know of a poem with a similar message... Just different?

Thanks for your help.
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Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2008-10-21, 13:31

First I'm sorry to hear of your Dad's passing. Sounds like there might've been some hard times there but he was still your Dad and I'm sure it doesn't make it any easier to deal with things. Maybe harder in some ways as your dilemma illustrates.

Second I would say you're sort of looking at two different questions here. One is whether the poem fits the life and passing of your father... whether it has some ring of truth to it without being disrespectful, etc. In my opinion, knowing very little about you or your Dad I would say the poem is not bad one for the situation. It's thoughtful of making the most of life, it's not disrespectful, and being sad it fits the occasion.

The other question though is if it will really bother your family. Sometimes you have to put aside something that "fits" in favor of something that will keep the peace and allow people to grieve without being angry that something is being read that they feel doesn't fit. Know what I mean? IOW, I think you've found something that is probably fitting of your Dad's situation but which might cause people in your family to be more distanced instead of coming together... which, in my experience is the single best thing that can happen leading up to and after a funeral. Take it FWIW.

I don't know your family so my advice may all be "accurate" but not fit because of the dynamics there. Only you know that... so I guess the bottom line is, ask yourself what means more to you (and there's no right answer necessarily): eulogizing your Dad in a way that helps you make sense of things, or just doing what you can to help your family be at peace with it. Some might say people have to find their own peace, so you should read it if it means something to you... others might say it's just a reading so better to be deferential about the whole thing.

How's that for a precise yet wishy washy answer? Anyway, hope it helps. Sadly I can't think of a poem off the top of my head that fits a tough situation like that....

...into the light of a dark black night.
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screensaver400
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Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-10-21, 13:35

Thanks.

I'm not set on that poem... I mean, I'd like to find something with more of an emphasis on learning from his life, than on the sea picking his bones.

If it comes down to a choice between Psalm 23 (one of the family's suggestions, that I hate because it is overused) and "Death by Water," I'll choose Psalm 23. But I'd rather find something that accurately speaks to his life, and is also acceptable to the family.
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Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2008-10-21, 13:38

Understood. I think you're probably leaning in the right direction. As far as the poem it might help if you could tell us a little bit (whatever your comfortable sharing) about your Dad. Poems are very visual things and so details of your Dad might evoke ideas in those better read with poetry than myself (and admittedly my knowledge of poetry is pretty poor). I haven't seen the other thread so apologies if you already described him there...

...into the light of a dark black night.
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screensaver400
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Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-10-21, 13:55

Quote:
Originally Posted by Moogs View Post
I haven't seen the other thread so apologies if you already described him there...
Nah. I just mentioned his death in passing.

Basically, he was a good father for my first 8 or 9 years of life. He did things like dress as Santa Claus for Christmas parties, take me to stock car races, and help me build my pinewood derby car.

However, he always had substance abuse issues. He started drinking alcohol when he was 12 or 13, at family parties and the like. I think his maturity level kind of stuck at that point when he was sober.

When he was drinking, he was friendly, outgoing, and fun to be around. When he wasn't, he was downright awkward. He was never physically abusive or anything, but he and my mother did argue.

Around the time I was 8 or 9, he started having trouble with drugs. The big issue was prescription painkillers, but he did meth on a few occasions. He had a "shoulder injury" (who knows how bad it really was), which required more painkillers. He eventually got blacklisted by the pharmacies in the area, and would go to Mexico to purchase the medication.

When I was 10 or so, my parents divorced. My mother was hoping to get him to turn his life around. He never did.

He lived with his parents for a while, not working. He continued with the painkillers. Around the time I was 14, they put him in a rehabilitation program. He got out, and moved into a group home with other addicts. He eventually moved into his own apartment. Things were going okay, but he wasn't working regularly, and his parents were mostly supporting him. He did have painkillers, but we weren't sure if he was using them properly or not

My sister and I saw him on and off during this period. He was never a fixture in our lives. He was never someone we could depend on. When I was 17, he was involved in a single vehicle collision just before Christmas. I'll always believe that it was either a suicide attempt, or an attempt to injure himself in order to get painkillers.

He's been in the hospital ever since. He had all the painkillers he wanted. He was shuffled from facility to facility, from hospital to convalescent home to hospital. He never seemed to be making any serious effort at rehabilitation. He would start to get a little better when his parents got fed up, and then would go back to his old ways. He's a classic manipulator, able to persuade his parents to purchase him all sorts of things. There are boxes and boxes of DVD movies, a laptop computer, a high-end cell phone, and various other items they purchased for him. They would bring him snack foods, all sorts of stuff. He was able to just stay in bed all day, with IV painkillers streaming into his system, living the high life.

This lasted nearly three years, during which neither myself nor my sister saw him.

However, it can't last forever. He eventually got an infection in various parts of his body. It probably has something to do with living such a sedentary lifestyle in a hospital, with those "superbugs," though I'm not sure. His liver and kidneys failed, and he passed away last Tuesday. The last time I talked to him was December of 2005.

What I've learned from his life... I don't smoke. I don't drink, not even a sip. I definitely don't do drugs. I never will. I have a strong work ethic. I hate staying at home, even on the weekends. I have a strong sense of morality, of right and wrong.

So anyway... That's the Cliff's Notes, but it should give you some idea.

Last edited by screensaver400 : 2008-10-21 at 14:22.
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artesc
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Inferno, Sixth Circle
 
2008-10-21, 14:01

i'm sorry about your loss. my grandma passed away this summer so i know how it feels. i can't think of anything off the top of my head (which sucks since i'm dual-majoring and one of my degrees is in english) but if i do, i'll let you know.

artesc all the way!
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artesc
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Inferno, Sixth Circle
 
2008-10-21, 14:03

hmm. thought of something. how 'bout dylan thomas.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good night.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

artesc all the way!
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Moogs
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2008-10-21, 14:53

Thanks for sharing that, screensaver... obviously addictions are a disease and a tough thing to overcome. Did your Dad ever tell you much about his childhood? Probably there was something there that caused him to make some bad choices but obviously that doesn't make things any better for you, your Mom or your sister. When you say your family doesn't like it (the other poem), do you mean your Mom and sister specifically or others too?

...and Dylan Thomas is not a bad suggestion though it too is often used I suspect.

...into the light of a dark black night.
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Swox
OK Mr. Sunshine!
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Toronto
 
2008-10-21, 15:03

I wish I could help with the poetry selection, but I don't read much poetry.

I did want to say that my wife and I can empathize with your situation. Her father was an alcoholic who developed dementia as a result, and threatened to kill the whole family.

One of my close relatives has munchausen's by proxy syndrome. Needless to say, there aren't a lot of warm feelings there either.

My wife didn't have to say anything at her father's funeral, only the minister spoke, and he stuck to the facts - when and where he was born, got married, etc. I'm not sure what I'm going to say when my relative passes, which may be sooner than later. I feel like our culture expects us to canonize people once they're dead, even though they had such a negative impact on the lives of those closest to them. It's doubly perverse, I think, because they were cruelest to those who loved them most, and then those people are expected to pretend that none of it happened, and that they were a lovely person who will be missed.

Those are our feelings... just thought we'd share. We both wish you and your family all the best.

Do not be oppressed by the forces of ignorance and delusion! But rise up now with resolve and courage! Entranced by ignorance, from beginningless time until now, You have had more than enough time to sleep. So do not slumber any longer, but strive after virtue with body, speech, and mind!
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screensaver400
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2008-10-21, 15:04

I mean my mom. It may seem odd that she's involved, since they were divorced, but the family is still very close. Only my father was not around. Aside from him, I have a typical family, with both sets of grandparents, and a mother who is fine with both sides.

My grandparents seemed to have their reservations (either because of the tone, or because they didn't understand it), but they're the agreeable sort. They would have been okay with whatever I selected.

That trait (agreeability) likely contributed to my father's problems. My grandfather is actually not my grandfather by blood... My father never really liked him, even though he adopted him at age 7. They spoiled him as a child, to make up for his real father not being around.

Anyway, I found this one:

Quote:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious Lamp of Heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer:
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times, still succeed the former.

Then, be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.
I don't like it as well as "Death by Water," but it's my second favorite so far. It has a note of "Carpe Diem" combined with warnings about death, which is what I'm looking for.

We couldn't include the title ("To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time"); specifically, it's generally interpreted as a commentary on the transient nature of youthful beauty. Add to that, it doesn't really capture his life as well as I'd hope.
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709
Damned
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2008-10-21, 15:31

For the last two months I've been trying myself to put something together for my father. He's not dead yet, of course, but as the firstborn I'll be charged in saying something....even though I didn't talk to his stupid ass for 5 years or so...

Anyways, I've been leaning towards a mix of The Prophet and a few verses from the Apocrypha. The latter would piss him off, but hey, they're beautiful...and he's dead anyways, so fuck him.

I'd take a few lines from Gibran if I were you. Fantastic stuff:

Quote:
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.


In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?


For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?


Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

My deepest condolences for your loss, my friend.

So it goes.
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curiousuburb
Antimatter Man
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: that interweb thing
 
2008-10-21, 16:13

Sorry for your loss.

What about two passages?

One describing the good times (which may fit the tone of the folder, and/or be positive about those influences as you remember them).

One describing the loss of a father (which may for others refer to shuffling the mortal coil, and/or earlier losses as you remember them).

Find something for the first bit and then argue for Phelbas again, perhaps.

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
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Moogs
Hates the Infotainment
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: NSA Archives
 
2008-10-21, 17:48

709's entry gets my vote...
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