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Poems on Death and Dying

Poems on Death and Dying

After the loss of a loved one, we may feel like expressing in words our thoughts on the transition to a new state of awareness. Whether it is to family members or something that we may wish to read out at a funeral, there is not a lot of poetry with a theosophical flavour in which our expressions can be truly represented.


This page is a collection of some of the more traditonally used poems and also introduces new material that you are also welcome to use.  

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

by Mary Elizabeth Frye


When I Am Dead, My Dearest  

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

by Christina Georgina Rossetti


Death Is Nothing At All

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be one together with Christ.

by Henry Scott Holland



LIFE, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall ?

Rapidly, merrily,
Life's sunny hours flit by,
Gratefully, cheerily,
Enjoy them as they fly !

What though Death at times steps in
And calls our Best away ?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O'er hope, a heavy sway ?
Yet hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
Manfully, fearlessly,
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair !

by Charlotte Brontë


On Death

Then Almitra spoke, saying, 'We would ask now of Death.'
And he said:
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 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.

by Khalil Gibran


A telling analogy for life and death:
Compare the two of them to water and ice.
Water draws together to become ice,
And ice disperses again to become water.
Whatever has died is sure to be born again;
Whatever is born comes around again to dying.
As ice and water do one another no harm,
So life and death, the two of them, are fine.

by Han Shan


The Sailing Ship

What is dying?
I am standing on the seashore.
A ship sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object and I stand watching her
Till at last she fades from the horizon,
And someone at my side says, “She is gone!” Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her,
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her;
And just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone",
There are others who are watching her coming,
And other voices take up a glad shout,
"There she comes" – and that is dying.

by Bishop Charles Henry Brent


I Don't Believe in Death

I don’t believe in death
Who comes in silent stealth
He robs us only of a breath
Not of a lifetime’s wealth
I don’t believe in the tomb
Imprisons us in earth
It’s but another loving womb
Preparing our new birth
I do believe in life
Empowered from above
Till freed from stress and worldly strife
We soar through realms above
I do believe that then
In joy that never ends
We’ll meet all those we’ve loved, again
And celebrate our friends.

by Pauline Webb

Intimations of Immortality

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:

by William Wordsworth


The Sufi Path of Love

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, To Him we shall return.

by Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi


Death is a Dialogue

Death is a dialogue between,

The spirit and the dust.

'Dissolve' says Death. The Spirit 'Sir'.

I have another trust,

Death doubts it, argues fom the ground.

The Spirit turns away,

Just laying off, for evidence,

An overcoat of clay.

by Emily Dickson


Behind Me - dips Eternity

Behind me, dips eternity,

Before me, immortality,

Myself, the term between,

Death but the drift of eternity gray,

Dissolving into dawn away,

Before the west began,

This kingdoms, afterward they say,

In perfect, pauseless monarchy,

Whose prince, is son of none,

Himself, his dateless dynasty,

Himself, Himself diversity,

In duplicate divine,

Tis miracle before me, then,

Tis miracle behind, between,

A cresent in the sea,

With midnight to the north of her,

With midnight to the souht of her,

And maelstrom, in the sky.

by Emily Dickinson


Nay, but as when one layeth

His worn-out robes away,

And, taking new ones, sayeth,

"These will I wear today!"

So putteh by the spirit

Lightly its garb of flesh,

And passeth to inherit

A residence afresh

-The Song Celestial


Invocation for Freedom

Great Master, Inspirer and Teacher

As I leave this body in which I have given service

I eagerly look forward to further service

in Your name and for Humanity.

May the warmth of Your love enfold and uplift me.

May the radiant Light of Your Wisdom illumine

my Journey of Return

and Your Power support and strengthen me.

As I entrust myself into Your Loving Care,

May Your Peace and Love and Blessings

be upon me and flow through me

to all Beings.

by John Sell 


Whatever Is, Is Best        

I know as my life grows older 
    And mine eyes have clearer sight, 
That under each rank wrong somewhere 
    There lies the root of Right ; 
That each sorrow has its purpose, 
    By the sorrowing oft unguessed ; 
But as sure as the sun brings morning, 
    Whatever is, is best.

I know that each sinful action, 
    As sure as the night brings shade, 
Is somewhere, some time punished, 
    Though the hour be long delayed. 
I know that the soul is aided 
    Sometimes by the heart's unrest, 
And to grow means often to suffer-- 
    But whatever is, is best.

I know there are no errors 
    In the great Eternal plan, 
And all things work together 
    For the final good of man. 
And I know when my soul speeds onward, 
    In its grand eternal quest, 
I shall say as I look back earthward, 
    Whatever is, is best.

     by Ella Wheeler Wilcox 


Indian Prayer

When I am dead, Cry for me a little,

think of me sometimes, but not too much.

Think of me now and again as I was in life,

At some moments it's pleasant to recall, but not for long.

Leave me in peace and I shall leave you in peace,

And while you live let your thoughts be with the living.


The Song Celestial

Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never; 

Never was time it was not; 

End and Beginning are dreams! 

Birth-less and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit forever. 

Death hath touched it all, dead though the house of it seems!