Sunday, July 3, 2011


We went to a funeral the other day: most people in science and the medical profession don't talk about death unless it happens to someone close to them, but one thing is certain in life and that is that we will all die. One of the challenges that medicine faces is that it is often see as searching for a "cure" for cancer and a "cure" for heart disease, our two biggest "killers"; when what is really happening is that we're relieving one problem and delaying the inevitable.

Funerals are a difficult time because of all the raw emotion involved, and I always stand in awe of grieving family members who get up and deliver loving eulogies that are obviously gut-wrenching to perform: I often find myself heaving with suppressed sobs as I listen to them. The service I attended was a Catholic service and not only gave great dignity and ceremony to this final farewell for the person who had died, but provided a framework for those who were saying their loving farewells, to complete this traumatic episode in their lives.

Two poems during the service helped illustrate both the awful emotion of the final farewell, and the hope that those with faith have and which helps nurture them in life. The first poem was made "famous" in the film "Three weddings and a funeral" and is by W.H. Auden, and starts:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the piano and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The final verse goes:

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

It really sums up how one must feel when your nearest and most beloved is being laid to rest forever.

The other poem was probably written some 3,00 years ago and is found in the Bible in the Song of Songs, and provides some hope and comfort for those with Faith:

My lover speaks to me,
"Come then, my love;
My darling, come with me.
The winter is over;
The rains have stopped;
In the countryside the flowers are in bloom.
This is the time for singing;
The song of doves is heard in the fields.
Figs are beginging to ripen;
The air is fragrant with blossoming vines.
Come then, my love;
My darling, come with me".

Close your heart to every love but mine;
Hold no one in your arms but me.
Love is as powerful as death;
Passion is as strong as death itself.
It bursts into flames and burns like a raging fire.
Water cannot put it out;
No flood can drown it.
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