A Funeral Poem for a Friend

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomThis post is in honor of a dear friend, a former police officer and detective, who lost his 15-month battle to brain cancer this past evening. He endured several critical operations, agonizing pain, and physical impairment in order to spend as much time as he could with his adoring wife and five children. “It’s too early for me to go,” he said to me soon after the dreadful diagnosis. Through it all, he faced it with tremendous strength and courage, knowing that he was never alone — his close-knit family was with him each step of the way. Additionally, he had the support of his friends, law enforcement community, and church community. And he had his faith that guided him through the best of days and the worst of days. He was a kind, generous soul, possessing a contagious sense of humor, and found ample opportunities to make anyone who was around him laugh, even as he struggled with a terminal illness.

I will never forget our last visit a few weeks ago. He was heavily medicated from a recent surgery. We enjoyed a short visit, sharing many happy memories. Because he couldn’t talk, he mostly listened and nodded, opening his eyes from time to time. Before I left, I told him that I loved him and he became alert for the first time — his tired eyes looked up to meet my gaze. He nodded and managed a faint smile. Since he was too weak to speak, he slowly lifted his hand in the air as if to catch the words that were floating in the air, and then he made a slight swiping motion with his index finger, as if to flick the words back to me. It was the last time I would see him alive.

I am reminded of the poem “Miss Me, But Let Me Go” that is often mistakenly attributed to British poet Christina Rossetti. (Rossetti wrote a poem, titled “Remember,” with a slightly different message.) Although the author of “Miss Me, But Let Me Go” is not known, the poet captures so beautifully and so succinctly one of the great lessons of life — losing a friend. The poem reminds us to rejoice that some divine serendipity brings two people together so that they can travel some portion of the long road of life together. The poem also reminds us to rejoice in the memories that were created during that time. Of course, it is difficult to see that clearly through the fog of mourning and tears. Indeed, of all of life’s lessons, letting someone we love go is perhaps one of the most difficult and painful to learn.

Miss Me, But Let Me Go

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home. When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.By Unknown Author

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