Poem as Eulogy

Summer, 2010 -- Mum undaunted by her first round of chemo

My siblings generously let me be the one to give Mum’s eulogy at her funeral on Monday, though they quashed my first choice of poem to read. Which is understandable — the sentiments are not exactly ideal for sharing in the midst of a Catholic mass.

I ultimately chose “Remember,” by Christina Rossetti, as more fitting to both my mum’s and the rest of my family’s tastes. And it seemed appropriate that the dead should have her own voice, however approximate.

But my initial choice captures my own grief better. I’m not ready to follow its instructions yet, but it gives me some ground to stand on for a while:

*

[UNTITLED] / by Gregory Orr

This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
And, leaving,
left to us.

No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.

No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.

No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.

That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.

(From How Beautiful the Beloved by Gregory Orr. Copyright © 2009 by Gregory Orr.)