Finding appropriate things to say at an ashes interment or other funeral service is never an easy thing.
Of course, if the person who has died was religious, that does tend to make it considerably more straightforward, as there are a number of well-established texts and verses that are commonly used.
For non-religious ceremonies or informal gatherings like we tend to have at Tithe Green, however, you might need to think a bit deeper to come up with something that is both personal and suitable.
Poems to read at an ashes interment
One increasingly popular option is to read a poem, whether it was a favourite of the departed or says something meaningful related to their life and character.
This trend was strongly boosted by the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, a popular British romantic comedy released in 1994. At the funeral referred to in the title, the character played by John Hannah reads a WH Auden poem at the funeral of his partner, making for a particularly moving moment:
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
‘Funeral Blues’ by WH Auden
While the sentiments expressed by Auden are those many of us feel when we lose someone special, not everyone wants to be remembered sadly. They want their family and friends to continue to love them and cherish their memories, but also to get on with their own lives. Christina Rossetti wrote a few poems along these lines, but this is one of our favourites:
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
‘Let Me Go’ by Christina Rossetti
Pam Ayres is often known for her comic verse, but she has also made a telling contribution to poetry on more serious subjects, with the following being particularly apt for our natural burial ground:
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
‘Woodland Burial’ by Pam Ayres
Another recent example you could think about was written in 2013 by Linda Ellis. In the poem, she considers the text on a headstone or memorial plaque and how it contains the dates of birth and death, which are separated by a dash. She then goes on to muse on how it is that dash that is the most important part:
For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth
‘The Dash’ by Linda Ellis
Other things to say at an ashes interment
Poetry isn’t for everyone, and not all of us have the ability to read or speak a poem in such a way that it brings out the full depth and meaning we want to convey.
So what other options are there if you’re looking for what to say when scattering ashes or at an ashes interment?
- Quotes – there are all kinds of quotes you can find online. As with the poems, they can represent everything from the moving and meaningful to the serious and silly. Here are some of our favourites:
A great soul serves everyone all the time. A great soul never dies. It brings us together again and again (Maya Angelou)
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others (Thucydides)
I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realise that I’m listening to it (George Carlin)
It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone (John Steinbeck)
If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again (Stan Laurel)
- Share personal stories, memories and anecdotes – when taking this approach, you don’t have to put the whole burden onto one person’s shoulders. Encourage all attendees to share their memories – not only will it bring the diverse people who inhabit a person’s life together, but you might also learn something new about your friend or family member!
Whatever you want to say to remember someone, you’ll find that the tranquil surroundings at a Tithe Green Burial Ground will add to the occasion. Our beautiful woodland and meadow sites are perfect for a memorable ashes interment or scattering and a great alternative to a traditional funeral.