Speaking to a friend recently who lost her mother many years ago, I found out she’d never heard of a poem that’s given me great comfort over the years: Death Is Nothing at All, by Henry Scott Holland. It was written over 100 years ago and is often read at funerals, and I’m posting it for my friend and anyone else it may help.
Searching for the poem online, I found a number of versions that had only slightly been altered from each other but this version is the one closest to what I remember.
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.
Henry Scott Holland was a revered British priest and he wrote the poem as part of sermon in 1910. But it offers anyone, religious or not, some sort of explanation about continuity after death for those grieving.
Four different people gave me a copy of this poem soon after Mum passed away and when I first read it my feelings of despair and emptiness numbed its purpose. I put the poems away and only a year later when packing up my house to move overseas did I come across them again.
I was massively relieved to find that I had come to believe the exact same words or at least sentiment through the most difficult year of my life. Not by someone telling me or even reading the poem, but by believing that Mum would never really leave me. Reading the poem now gives me a sense of peace and hopefully it may help you. One thing I’ve learned about grief is ‘whatever works’ is the most important thing!