When I lead a ceremony of any kind I will always be guided by the client and adhere to their wishes for poetry and readings that will make their ceremony a very special and unique one for them. This in my opinion, is most important, as it allows them to show their personalities or the personality of the deceased person through their own chosen words. Needless to say, if they need me to guide them to the right piece I will always be there with help and advice.
I do have my own personal favourites, but they are just that, my personal favourites, as you will all have yours. I have given you my top ten which may give some inspiration to people trying to choose their readings and poetry. I hope you like them.
This first one I love as it can be used as a reading, or goes equally well with a beautiful handfasting, which is an ancient Celtic tradition where the couple’s hands are bound together with chord or ribbon and is where the expression “Tying the Knot” originated.
A Lifetime of Hands
Patricia A. Walton
A good marriage is a lifetime of hands —
It’s a shaking hand
Sliding a shiny gold band
onto another shaking hand.
It’s an anxious hand tugging
on a suddenly shy hand.
It’s hands touching in sudden tenderness
or swinging together down a crowded street
or fingers interlocked in the darkness of a theatre.
It’s expressive hands;
the playful pat,
the beckoning wave,
the rumpled hair.
It’s two ecstatic hands
being grasped by tiny brand-new hands.
It’s hurried hands setting dinner for hungry hands.
It’s angry hands
pushing away angry hands.
It’s an optimistic hand
patting a discouraged hand.
It’s a panicky hand
clutching a calm hand.
It’s a proud hand introducing an embarrassed hand.
It’s joyous hands
grasping happy hands…
and hands sharing sadness with a touch.
It’s healthy hands
holding sick hands.
It’s a strong hand supporting a grief-stricken hand.
It’s hands joined in prayer.
And finally, a shaking hand
sliding a worn gold band
off a still hand.
A good marriage is a lifetime of hands.
This second poem is very personal to my husband and I, and has been recited many times throughout our very long relationship, and will be recited again at our 30th anniversary vow renewal later this year.
I Carry Your Heart With Me
E E Cummings
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)
I am never without it (anywhere I go, you go my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet)
I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
And it’s you who are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you.
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart).
Number three is one I love as it is just a quirky little reading for those who like a bit of fun and laughter in their ceremony. I haven’t had any takers for this one so far!!
I Wanna Be Yours
John Cooper Clarke
Let me be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
Let me be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours
Let me be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
Let me be your dreamboat
when you wanna sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours
Let me be your electric metre
I will not run out
Let me be the electric heater
you get cold without
Let me be your setting lotion
hold your hair with deep devotion
deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
That’s how deep is my emotion
deep deep deep deep deep deep
I don’t wanna be hers
I wanna be yours
This fourth one I love because it is from a poet who is actually a catholic priest and I think it shows great understanding of marriage from one who may have no experience of this type of commitment.
To Love Is Not To Possess
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one’s self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one’s self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one’s inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child’s scars
Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.”
When it comes to readings and poems for end of life ceremonies there are so many that I really love that I am always perplexed and unable to choose what ones to suggest to my families. Number five is one that I have used for my own family ceremonies and one that everyone in my family really loves as it reminds us of someone who was taken way too soon.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and Smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Number six is the poem that I have chosen to be read at my own end of life ceremony, hopefully in the very distant future as I have no desire to go there just yet !! I hope my family still think that I have lived up to this one on my departure!
Laughter will still sound,
even though you’re gone.
But the decibels will dip,
with some smiles, painted on.
Hopes will still soar,
dreams float on high.
But the altitude will drop,
as will the supply.
Passion will still drive us,
desire wave us off.
But the revs will decline
and the engine might cough.
Time will be bejewelled,
lives lit by waltzing light.
But the carats will diminish,
its brilliance a lesser sight.
Yet memories have no volume,
love no mass nor weight.
These will broaden, widen, deepen,
a true measure of someone great.
Number Seven has such a powerful message for life and death that I am always blown away by the enormity of the words every time I read it. The power of words is tremendous.
What Will Matter?
Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten
will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations
and jealousies will finally disappear.
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from
or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.
So what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought
but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success
but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned
but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity,
compassion, courage, or sacrifice
that enriched, empowered or encouraged others
to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence
but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories
but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered,
by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.
It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.
This Eight choice is the saddest as it is for the death of a child who we never had the opportunity to get to know. The sadness of this situation is something that I know only too well and I treasure this poem as it rekindles the memory of what could have been.
The world may never notice
If a Snowdrop doesn’t bloom,
Or even pause to wonder
If the petals fall too soon.
But every life that ever forms,
Or ever comes to be,
Touches the world in some small way
For all eternity.
The little one we longed for
Was swiftly here and gone.
But the love that was then planted
Is a light that still shines on.
And though our arms are empty,
Our hearts know what to do.
Every beating of our hearts
Says that we love you.
For my Ninth choice on the joyous occasion of the naming of a child and introducing them to your world, I do love a bit of Winnie the Pooh. I just adore Winnie and all the residents of The Hundred Acre Wood.
Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.
“What’s twice eleven?” I said to Pooh.
(“Twice what?” said Pooh to Me.)
“I think it ought to be twenty-two.”
“Just what I think myself,” said Pooh.
“It wasn’t an easy sum to do,
But that’s what it is,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what it is,” said Pooh.
“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
“Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh.
“As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what they are,” said Pooh.
“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“That’s right,” said Pooh to Me.
“I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo!
Silly old dragons!”- and off they flew.
“I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he,
“I’m never afraid with you.”
So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.
And finally, number ten is what I wish for my Son through his life. It is a beautifully written piece setting out the path and the values that I am sure all parents wish for their children.
‘Wishes For A Child’
May you know the gift of friendship,
Feel the sun upon your face,
May you win displaying dignity,
And accept defeat with grace,
May you marvel with the wonders,
Of nature and the earth,
May you value education,
And know your own true worth,
May you live and love with honesty,
And do the thing that’s right,
May you stand up for the homeless,
And sleep in peace at night,
May you thrive upon a challenge,
And sing and dance and laugh,
May you know the joy of parenthood,
And follow your own path.
And so you have it, my ten top choices of readings and poetry for coupling, welcoming and saying farewell. I hope you like them and they appeal to you as much as they do to me They are just a very small sample of the pieces that I have in my arsenal and should you need any help with other ones I am just a message away.