It was our annual Tree of Light ceremony at work last Friday. We had about 450 stars returned to be laminated, strung and hung on the tree, which was up quite a lot from last year. Unfortunately the weather was cold and damp and we had a very low turn out for the evening switch on. There were plenty of Orders of Service, LCD candles and mince pies left over!
We have mixed feeling about it in the Office, the event is a complete nightmare to organise and takes up a lot of valuable time and energy in the most demanding months of the year. As well as the physical effort involved in processing the stars, there is the annual battle to find anyone willing to take part. This year it was harder than ever to find a choir, after six months we did eventually pin one down, only for them to drop out five days before the event. Just as we were resigning ourselves to accompanying the carols on two swanee whistles and a kazoo, the power of facebook brought us a newly formed choir, some of whose members had never sung together before. The lady in charge turned out to be a bit of Linda Snell and gradually took over most of the final arrangements for which we were very grateful. They did a wonderful job and have volunteered to come again next year, what a result!
I was asked to read a piece for the event, which caused me a bit of heartache. There are a lot of what I consider to be maudlin bereavement poems out there, and others which have been read so often they have almost become a cliché. Coupled to this my intense dislike of the aabbccdd rhyme scheme with it’s often strained and childish rhymes, and you can appreciate my dilemma! Plus I didn’t want to have to read an overtly Christian poem. The powers that be said the choice was up to me, and didn’t know what I was going to read until I opened my mouth. I wonder if they regretted that in hindsight, as I chose to go with a poem by a Senegalese poet, which actually has the temerity to mention a big no no – the ‘d’ word!
To be honest, I do sometimes find it tiring to continually soften and blur the edges of bereavement. Sometimes I think that it can help people to actually face up to the fact that the deceased have died. They may have passed on, over, through; gone to a better place, heaven, the summerlands; be with god, the angels etc. But to do that they actually did have to physically die, it’s hard and terrible to contemplate, but there is a certain comfort to be found in confronting it. Anyway, this is the poem that spoke to my pagan heart:
Those who are dead are never gone.
They are in the thickening shadow
The dead are not under the earth
they are in any tree that rustles
they are in the wood that groans
they are in the water that sleeps
they are in the hut, they are in the crowd
the dead are not dead.
Those who are dead are never gone
they are in the breast of the woman
they are in the child who is wailing
and in the firebrand that flames.
the dead are not under the earth.
they are in the fire that is dying
they are in the grasses that weep,
they are in the whimpering rocks.
they are in the forest, they are in the house,
the dead are not dead.