(If you want to retell any of the stories listed below, be sure
to obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material
is not in the public domain)
In the north of my country it is believed that when a baby dies
it becomes an angel that will guard all his/her relatives. Instead
of mourning they do a big celebration with songs and dances. They
dance all night long. It is believed that the child's spirit enters
the celestial choir and that's why they celebrate. They put the
baby on top of a table, with candles and they decorate it with
fresh flowers. The hut is covered with a white sheet and they
make golden or silver paper stars that they put on top of it.
The person in charge of all of this is the godmather. The instrument
that is used is an harp and the godfather is the one that pays
for that service as well as the beverages for the guests. As a
way of fairwell, that last ones to dance are the godparents, at
sunrise, and then they sing together some of the songs with the
theme of the angelito. Once the songs are over they march to the
Violeta Parra has written the following song called Rin
Ya se va para los cielos ese querido angelito
There goes to heaven, that dear angel
a rogar por sus abuelos, por sus padres y hermanitos
To pray for his grandparents, parents and siblings
cuando se muere la carne el alma busca su sitio
When the flesh dies the soul searches for a place
adentro de una amapola o dentro de un pajarito.
inside a poppy flower or a bird
tierra lo está esperando con su corazón abierto
The earth is waiting with it's open heart
por eso es que el angelito parece que está despierto
That why it seems that the little angel is awake
cuando se muere la carne el alma busca su centro
when the flesh dies the soul searches for it's center
en el brillo de una rosa o de un pecesito nuevo.
inside the rose's gloom or a new fish
su cunita de tierra lo arrullará una campana
his dirt cradle a bell will lull him
mientras la lluvia le límpia su carita en la mañana
While the rain will wash his face in the morning
cuando se muere la carne el alma busca su diana
when the flesh dies the soul searches for it's reveille
en el misterio del mundo que le ha abierto su ventana.
In the world's mystery that has opened it's window
Las mariposas alegres de ver el bello angelito
T he butterflies are happy watching the little angel
alrededor de su cuna le caminan despacito
Around his cradle they walk slowly
cuando se muere la carne el alma va derechito
when the flesh dies the soul goes directly
a saludar a la luna y de paso al lucerito.
to greet the moon and the morning star
funeral: At PSLA this year I saw a wonderful book re the death
of a young child, called Dancing on the
It has a website:
3) I heard this story from a friend whose daughter sent it to
her from Japan (obviously you can tailor it so it becomes a story
of parting and not of death): One day a father punished his young
daughter for wasting expensive gold paper. The family was very
poor, and the father was furious when he discovered that his daughter
had used the paper to wrap a cardboard box as a Christmas present.
The next day, the child brought the gift box to her father. This
is for you, Daddy. The father was ashamed of his previous
behavior, but his anger returned when he saw that the box was
empty! His eyes flashing, he turned to his daughter and said:
Dont you know, young lady, that when you give someone
a Christmas present youre supposed to put something inside
the box?!! The little girl replied with tears in her eyes:
But, Daddy, I did put something in the box. I put in lots
and lots of kisses for you until it was full. The father
fell on his knees asked his daughter to forgive him. Not long
after, the little girl was killed in an accident. They say that
her father kept the little gold box near his bed till the day
he died. And whenever he felt sad or depressed or that he hadnt
the strength to go on, he would open the little gold box and take
out one of the kisses that his daughter had put inside.
is the skeleton of the story I told at a memorial service for
my stepson, who died of cancer at the age of 39. King Solomon,
very old, sits in garden. Feels someone standing behind him. Recognizes
Angel of Death. "I, Solomon, wisest man ever, must also die?'
"Yes, unless you drink water of life, from paradise. Since
you are Solomon, I give you three days to get the water."
Wise Solomon preferred animals to humans, asked who will bring
water from paradise. King of birds, Eagle, volunteered. On third
day, arrived, with goblet of water resting on one wing. Solomon
hesitated, turned to animals, "Should I drink it?" All:
Yes! Again hesitated. "Who's missing? Not all here. Where's
fox?" Fox located, returned. Solomon: "Drink, yes or
no?" Fox: All said "yes" so why ask me?" Solomon:
"Because you're wisest." "Well, I say better to
die now when everyone will wail, 'Why is he dead?' than to live
on until everyone wails "Why isn't he dead?' Solomon: Truly
you're wisest. Eagle, take water back to paradise." Eagle
set out, but was weary, wing quivered, and drops of water spilt
out on the ground as he flew over Yemen. Each drop became a tree
- a coffee tree. And that's why all admit that Yemenite coffee
is indeed the water of life.
5) When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced.
Live you life in a manner so that when you die the world cries
and you rejoice.
--Native American Proverb
Good stories that might work with adaptation.
6) I used this story to illustrate how precious she was to all
of us and how she knew what was important in life.
"A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a
precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler
who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her
food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the
woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation. The traveler
left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth
enough to give him security for a lifetime. But a few days later
he came back to return the stone to the wise woman. "I've
been thinking," he said, "I know how valuable the stone
is, but I give it back to you in the hope that you can give me
something even more precious. Give me what you have within you
that enabled you to give me the stone."
I ended the eulogy with the next story:
Imagine for a moment that we are standing on the sea shore. We
have waved goodbye to our friend who is sailing away on a large
clipper ship. We stand and watch the billowing white sails and
the boat appears to get smaller and smaller. Finally, it moves
beyond our sight. "There she goes," we say. But in reality,
the boat has not vanished nor is it gone. It is simply out of
our sight. On a far off shore there are others standing and waiting
and they excitedly call out, "Here she comes!"
7) I have never had to tell at a funeral, so I am not sure on
this difficult situation. But take a look at The
Rabbit and the Moon (which I love telling); it might do:
Last week we mentioned Death in the Nut,
which you can find in some of Duncan Williamson's collections.
That could also work, but I suspect it would be too long - my
telling is usually over 12 minutes. I also end this with a re-affirmation
of life - Jack goes out the next day into the wide world, ready
for the rest of his life. But personally I'd be happier with Rabbit
and the Moon. It is only around 5 minutes to tell and very
8) I like The Cowtail Switch very
much - and find it useful both at birthdays and memorials.
You can read one version here:
9) On the healing website there is a story, the actual name is
escaping me--Just Remember?? a longer
version of the Tailor's story. I've told it at a hospice memorial
service a year ago, at the hospice request for that story. I can
see how it could be used as an eulogy, inserting stories or events
about your stepfather.
10) You may find my guide to the Irish Wake interesting.
11) A story that comes to mind is The Man
Who Wanted to Live Forever. It is a gentle tale about the
inevitability of death, which I've told many times. I added a
little song (I want to live forever, forever, forever. How can
I live forever? Oh please tell me how.) and use it throughout
the story as well as at the end of saying you can still hear the
echo of Bodkin's song if you listen closely.
12) The Funeral Fork, author unknown
The young rector was visiting an elderly lady in his parish, who
had been ill for some time. It was a bittersweet day. She was
his favorite parishioner, and both of them knew it would probably
be their last time together. As he got up to leave, she said to
him, "I have one special request for my funeral, Father,"
so he sat back down to listen. "After I am laid out, before
the guests arrive at the viewing, I want you to place a fork in
my right hand," she began. "A fork?" he asked.
"Yes, I know it must sound odd," she continued. "But
please put a silver fork in my hand. I have been a member of this
parish for almost sixty years, and I have been to lots of church
dinners. Invariably, as the meals ended, someone has always yelled
out, "Hold your forks. And then, the most marvelous treats
have come. Flaky, fresh apple pie; rich, dark chocolate cake;
tangy lemon meringue pie. Always the very best part of the meal."
"When you put that fork in my hand, it will be a way to assure
my friends, that for me, the best part of my life, the life eternal,
is coming. You can tell them that at my funeral." So, the
young rector agreed to the request and kissed the dear lady good-bye.
The next day, he got the call that she had passed away. The young
rector went to his own silver chest and selected the best silver
fork that he owned. Lovingly, he went to the funeral home, where
the lady was dressed in her best dress, and he placed the fork
in the elderly lady's hand. Soon her friends began to come to
the viewing. "Doesn't she look lovely?" one said. "She
certainly does," said another. "But what's with that
fork?" The rector smiled. Tomorrow, at the funeral Mass he
would explain the fork. As at the end of all the church suppers,
holding the fork meant that the best was yet to come, so for her,
the best was truly yet to come."
13) Now my favourite funeral story.
A young circuit preacher arrives late at the church and doesn't have time to talk to the bereaved so he just begins the service. All of a sudden, during the first hymn, he realized that he doesn't even know the gender of the deceased. So, leaning over to the person in the front row, he asked quietly, "Brother or Sister?" "Cousin" came the reply.
Dale P. 4/12/05
web page updated 7/21/05)