Death Is Nothing At All
Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep
What is Dying?
Canon Henry Scott Holland
Bishop Charles Brent
Any of these three small, attractively presented books would make a suitable gift for someone who has been bereaved, either recently or perhaps at an anniversary of death.
Each book consists of a well known poem or reflection on death, laid out line-by-line and complemented by a series of simple sketches that allow the reader to take time with the thoughts expressed as they remember their loved ones.
These are poems/reflections that encapsulate and yet somehow transcend the trauma of loss, offering a timeless message that has allowed them to be used at many funerals and memorial services over the years. Each one, in its own unique way, grapples with the agony of grief and presents a simple message of comfort and reassurance: death is not the end and though it may be almost impossible to see it in the immediate aftermath of death there is hope.
Don't mistake me: these are not gospel tracts, preaching the particular certainties of Christianity. There's no clearly defined theological content to the thoughts expressed, only a quiet confidence that there is a way for the living to go on living despite the devastation death brings in its wake, presented in a way that people of any faith or even none should be able to relate to. Both Death Is Nothing At All and Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep achieve this by effectively denying the grim reality of death. Whilst in the long term this is likely to prove less than helpful, many have nonetheless drawn strength from the sentiments expressed. On the other hand, What is Dying? acknowledges the real separation that death brings, but portrays it as a voyage to a faraway place: loved ones are waiting on a distant shore. This, for me personally, is a far more powerful image.
Souvenir Press have done a superb job of capturing the essence of the thoughts conveyed within each book and I'd suggest that it's worth keeping copies to hand, ready to quietly give away on those occasions when most of us are likely to be completely lost for words. No false promises, no hard sell, just quiet hope.
Phil Groom, May 2004
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.
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