Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The comfort of words

One of my favorite authors, Anthony Powell, once tried to console someone with a passage from literature (I forget what). The person was completely unmoved, and Anthony Powell concluded that only those who already love words (or as he put it "possess literature already") can be comforted by them (or it).

I'm not so sure about that.

Of course I am a reader, but I think almost anyone would find this moving -- and comforting. I do, anyhow. .

Do not stand at my grave and forever 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’s 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 forever cry.

I am not there. I did not die.

And yes, someone I love very much did die recently. My mother died on May 1. And now whenever I see one of these things I'll think of her


Joshua McCune said...

My father always sends out that verse whenever anybody close passes (even one of the animals). I have a viscerally sad fondness for it.

And I am sorry about your mother, but I am glad that you still see her. That is a wonderful thing.

Grace Lin said...

oh, that's a beautiful poem, Libby!

Libby Koponen said...


It's anonymous -- I should have said -- Navajo, I think. I love it, too. My sister Sandra told me about it.

Elaine Magliaro said...


So sorry to hear about the death of your mother. The poem is a lovely tribute to her. I believe it may have been written by Mary Elizabeth Frye.

Robin said...

I came across this a few years ago. It was etched in stone right by the ocean and struck me so deeply in the moment because a family member had just passed. I'll always love it. Thanks for the reminder. ...The world is such a strange place of comfort in the presence of despair.

Andrea Mack said...

This poem really does touch my soul. I'm sorry for your loss.

Courtney Pippin-Mathur said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. When my beloved grandmother passed away my husband found this poem for me to read at her funeral. It is still comforting.

Amanda Hoving said...

So very sorry about your mother. You're right -- that poem is lovely, and would move even a hardened heart. Best to you~