What will survive of us is love

I’ve been thinking about my funeral.

There’s cheerful.

Well, it is actually. I’m not feeling morbid or having a premonition or anything. Just hearing an old love song that’s part of an advertising campaign on UK telly at the moment and thinking, yes, I’d like that one played at my funeral.

I do believe that what will survive of us is love. It’s the last line of Larkin’s poem An Arundel Tomb, and uncharacteristically upbeat of the cynical old bugger who famously wasn’t too keen on it after he wrote it. But whether he believed it or not, I do.

I also believe that all we need is love is all we need. You can call me a hippy and a Beatles fan if you want. They’re not bad things to be.

Love is the centre of my existence. It informs everything I think and do. Not constantly and often not in the heat of a moment. I’m no saint. But eventually, inevitably, everything comes down to love. And I’m fortunate to be surrounded by it. Enveloped in it. Carried through life on it.

I wrote this poem for my wife a few years after a traumatic event nearly killed me and left me crippled, during a setback that had us wondering how far my recovery to mobility would go and had me unsure of how long I had left in me. I hope someone will read this in the service too. It’s called Planting for Spring.


The smoky memory of this afternoon
will live forever.
I sat in the wheelchair, wrapped up
in fallen leaves and drifts of sleep,
while you kneeled in the mellow sun
to plant tulips and snowdrops.
Remember how much I love you.

Your eyes are warm daylight.
Your brave smile my summer
and your hair, my fiery autumn.
We are together now but eventually,
you know, we’ll walk into winter alone.
You are already closer to the earth.
You always were. Remember:

stay close.
Hold tight through the long night,
and when the snow has melted
my shroud your tulips and snowdrops
will renew the spring in your step.
And remember how much I love you.


That’s the message I want to leave my loved ones. I love them. I’ve always loved them. My love for them is bigger than me and it will survive my death.

So here’s the song.

Nancy Wilson – How Glad I Am

What song, reading, or message would you like your loved ones to hear at your funeral?

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22 Responses to What will survive of us is love

  1. Beautiful post, David. I agree about love being the sum of our lives. I’ve decided I don’t want a funeral, I want a wake. A party with booze and food and toasts and laughter. I want the people who loved me to have a few hours of fun with each other.

    For a more contemplative moment, a song I think is perfect is Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me in Your Heart.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KjRLq4uF4A

  2. Erin says:

    Wow, that’s a gorgeous poem!

    My funeral will be for those who survive me, so it’s only right that they should choose what will most comfort them. I’d like to think that someone will find a passage, or even a single quip, from something I’ve written to be a suitable memorial, but I don’t know.

    (Also, you know, even though I’ve evidence enough that it’s not true, I would still like to believe that I can live forever. Or at least until I run out of things to write, which is effectively the same thing.)

  3. I totally want an Irish or Quebec style kitchen party with a full blown wake going on in my honor. With as much Great Big Sea as possible, and front and center should be “The Night Pat Murphy Died”. šŸ˜€

  4. Hi David,
    Thank you for the thoughtful blog and the beautiful poem. I haven’t really thought about my funeral before (hopefully it won’t happen for many years – when I’m done writing stories, as Erin says) but like others here, I hope it will be a celebration rather than a sad time. I’d love to have Great Big Sea play at my wake. That would be a party!

  5. Beautiful post, David! OK, in our family we always have “Amazing Grace” at funerals, preferably done on the bagpipes. And for my personal anthem, the Beach Boys “Fun Fun Fun,” which so TOTALLY represents me at a certain point in my life. My daughters know they’re required to have that, even if no one else understands šŸ™‚

  6. Aiona says:

    Gee, I dunno what song I’d want played at my funeral, but now I have that Beatles song reverberating in my brain. Thanks for sharing your love poem to your wife. It made me cry, but a good kinda cry, you know? My great grandma had a Philippino-type funeral. The kind where they have a parade down the street, with a band if you can afford it. Then everyone went back to the house to drink hard liquor and gamble. šŸ™‚ And they took a video of it all. Gotta love it. Fantabulous woman. I miss her. She could write songs and poetry, too. She should have been a rapper, but she was born too early.

  7. Margaret says:

    David, that’s a beautiful poem, and for a morbid topic, you sure managed to make it rich :).

  8. Joss Alexander says:

    Great post David. Why aren’t we more open about death? I loved the scene in Waking Ned, when the friend gives a eulogy to somebody who’s not actually dead but sitting in the congregation.
    My song? Eva Cassidy, Fields of Gold

  9. Liz Flaherty says:

    I really loved this. I keep thinking about my funeral, but have told my kids to do what they want since I won’t even be there. But Beatles’ music would be good, and some Eagles, and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Hmmm…it may be a long funeral.

  10. Love the post and the poem.

    I recently went to a funeral that was not the usual formulaic service, although it did take place in a church, but a glorious mishmash of memories and audience participation (at one point we were encouraged to join in with the departed’s favourite drunken post-rugby song), followed but a spontaneous decampment to his favourite picnic spot and a party that had a lot more to do with joy than sadness. It got me thinking, and recent events have got me carrying on with the same train of thought, about my own funeral and unfortunately I don’t know when to stop – I have a playlist in my head about the length of the average school disco. Maybe I’ll just get my sons to hook up my iPod to a set of speakers and put it on random; assuming I keep it updated, it should be a representative sample of the music that defines me.

    One thing I do know, though: I want to be buried (I like the thought of people being able to visit a grave roughly the shape and size of me, rather than an anonymous-looking pot in a niche in the wall) in the woodland burial ground near where I live. I want them to plant a rowan tree over my head if possible and if that’s not allowed, scatter wildflower meadow seeds over my grave. (I also want only wild flowers at my funeral, which will be humanist, though I don’t know exactly what form it will take.)

  11. I forgot something important. Wear orange. Or rainbow stripes.

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