At times of death, in the midst of grief, many people are at a loss about what prayers and readings they want to have said for their loved one. They don’t have the mental wherewithal to be able to search the Writings for their favorite quotes to uplift those who attend, to bring them closer to the idea that death is a “messenger of joy”.
Here is a program I put together for my own funeral. Feel free to use it and share with others, if you find it helpful. The musical interludes are songs that appeal to me. Feel free to add your own music or even live performances.
Musical Interlude: The Lord’s Prayer by Dash Crofts
O thou kind Lord, this dearly cherished maidservant was attracted to Thee, and through reflection and discernment, longed to attain Thy presence and enter Thy realms. With tearful eyes, she fixed her eyes on the kingdom of mysteries. Many a night she spent in deep communion with Thee, and many a day she lived in intimate remembrance of Thee. At every morn, she was mindful of Thee, and at every eve, she centered her thoughts upon Thee. Like unto a singing nightingale, she chanted Thy sacred verses and like unto a mirror, she sought to reflect Thy light.
O thou forgiver of sins, open Thou the way for this awakened soul to enter Thy kingdom and enable this bird trained by Thy hand to soar in the eternal rose-garden. She is afire with longing to draw neigh unto Thee; enable her to attain Thy presence. She is distraught and distressed in separation from Thee; cause her to be admitted into Thy heavenly mansion.
Forgive her sins and bless her with Thine abundant grace. Grant her the privilege of beholding Thy countenance and give her the chalice of joy and bliss. Thou art the Giver, the Glorious, the Eternal, the Bounteous; and Thou art the All-Gracious, the All-Merciful, the Omnipotent, He who is the Bestower of Gifts and the Forgiver of Sins. (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)
O my God, Thy Trust hath been returned unto Thee. It behooveth Thy grace and Thy bounty that have compassed Thy dominions on earth and in heaven, to vouchsafe unto Thy newly welcomed one Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and the fruits of the tree of Thy grace! Powerful art Thou to do as Thou willest, there is none other God but Thee, the Gracious, the Most Bountiful, the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Pardoner, the Precious, the All-Knowing. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 43)
She hath been freed from this sorrow-stricken shelter and hath turned her face toward the everlasting nest of the Kingdom, and, being delivered from a dark and narrow world, hath hastened to the sanctified realm of light; therein lieth the consolation of our hearts. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)
O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant, humble before the majesty of Thy divine supremacy, lowly at the door of Thy oneness, hath believed in Thee and in Thy verses, hath testified to Thy word, hath been enkindled with the fire of Thy love, hath been immersed in the depths of the ocean of Thy knowledge, hath been attracted by Thy breezes, hath relied upon his supplications to Thee, and hath been assured of Thy pardon and forgiveness. He hath abandoned this mortal life and hath flown to the kingdom of immortality, yearning for the favor of meeting Thee.
Lord, glorify his station, shelter him under the pavilion of Thy supreme mercy, cause him to enter Thy glorious paradise, and perpetuate his existence in Thine exalted rose garden, that he may plunge into the sea of light in the world of mysteries. Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Powerful, the Forgiver and the Bestower. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 197)
Musical Interlude: If We Knew by Grant Hinden Miller
The inscrutable divine wisdom underlieth such heart-rending occurrences. It is as if a kind gardener transferreth a fresh and tender shrub from a confined place to a wide open area. This transfer is not the cause of the withering, the lessening or the destruction of that shrub; nay, on the contrary, it maketh it to grow and thrive, acquire freshness and delicacy, become green and bear fruit. This hidden secret is well known to the gardener, but those souls who are unaware of this bounty suppose that the gardener, in his anger and wrath, hath uprooted the shrub. Yet to those who are aware, this concealed fact is manifest, and this predestined decree is considered a bounty. Do not feel grieved or disconsolate, therefore, at the ascension of that bird of faithfulness; nay, under all circumstances pray for that youth, supplicating for him forgiveness and the elevation of his station. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)
Why should thou be sad and heartbroken? This separation is temporal; this remoteness and sorrow is counted only by days. Thou shalt find him in the Kingdom of God and thou wilt attain to the everlasting union. Physical companionship is ephemeral, but heavenly association is eternal. Whenever thou rememberest the eternal and never ending union, thou wilt be comforted and blissful. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 99)
As to the question whether the souls will recognize each other in the spiritual world: This fact is certain; for the Kingdom is the world of vision where all the concealed realities will become disclosed. How much more the well-known souls will become manifest. The mysteries of which man is heedless in this earthly world, those he will discover in the heavenly world, and there will he be informed of the secret of truth; how much more will he recognize or discover persons with whom he hath been associated. Undoubtedly, the holy souls who find a pure eye and are favored with insight will, in the kingdom of lights, be acquainted with all mysteries, and will seek the bounty of witnessing the reality of every great soul. Even they will manifestly behold the Beauty of God in that world. Likewise will they find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 367)
And know thou for a certainty, that in the divine worlds, the spiritual beloved ones (believers) will recognize each other, and will seek union (with each other), but a spiritual union. Likewise, a love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. Likewise, thou wilt not forget there the life that thou hast had in the material world. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdul-Bahá, V1, p. 205)
As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore in that world also they can make progress. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 330)
O Lord, O Thou Whose mercy hath encompassed all, Whose forgiveness is transcendent, Whose bounty is sublime, Whose pardon and generosity are all-embracing, and the lights of Whose forgiveness are diffused throughout the world! O Lord of Glory! I entreat Thee, fervently and tearfully, to cast upon Thy handmaiden who hath ascended unto Thee the glances of the eye of Thy mercy. Robe her in the mantle of Thy grace, bright with the ornaments of the celestial Paradise, and, sheltering her beneath the tree of Thy oneness, illumine her face with the lights of Thy mercy and compassion.
Bestow upon Thy heavenly handmaiden, O God, the holy fragrances born of the spirit of Thy forgiveness. Cause her to dwell in a blissful abode, heal her griefs with the balm of Thy reunion, and, in accordance with Thy will, grant her admission to Thy holy Paradise. Let the angels of Thy loving-kindness descend successively upon her, and shelter her beneath Thy blessed Tree. Thou art, verily, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous, the All-Bountiful. (‘Abdul-Bahá, from a newly translated tablet)
Musical Interlude: Carry Me Home by Ed Vandendool
O my servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 329)
To consider that after the death of the body the spirit perishes, is like imagining that a bird in a cage will be destroyed if the cage is broken, though the bird has nothing to fear from the destruction of the cage. Our body is like the cage, and the spirit is like the bird. We see that without the cage this bird flies in the world of sleep; therefore if the cage becomes broken, the bird will continue and exist: its feelings will be even more powerful, its perceptions greater, and its happiness increased. In truth, from hell it reaches a paradise of delights, because for the thankful birds there is no paradise greater than freedom from the cage. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 327)
A friend asked: “How should one look forward to death?” He answered: “How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers. Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work, the work of the Kingdom, is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call ‘time and place.’ Time with us is measured by the sun. When there is no more sunrise, and no more sunset, that kind of time does not exist for man. Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation. (‘Abdul-Bahá, ‘Abdul-Bahá in London, p. 95)
And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 155)
These few brief days shall pass away, this present life shall vanish from our sight; the roses of this world shall be fresh and fair no more, the garden of this earth’s triumphs and delights shall droop and fade. The spring season of life shall turn into the autumn of death . . . He who hath knowledge and power will rather seek out the glory of heaven, and spiritual distinction, and the life that dieth not. And such a one longeth to approach the sacred Threshold of God. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdul-Bahá, p. 220)
Musical Interlude: Prayer for the Departed by Roya Bauman
Prayer for the Dead (to be said at the graveside)
The Prayer for the Dead is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer that is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand in silence.
O my God! This is Thy handmaiden and the daughter of Thy handmaiden who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set her face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee. Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful. Deal with her, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant her admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. There is no God but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.
Alláh-u-Abhá. We all, verily, worship God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, bow down before God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, are devoted unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, give praise unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, yield thanks unto God. (19 times)
Alláh-u-Abhá We all, verily, are patient in God. (19 times)
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Do you have a favorite prayer or reading you don’t see in this program? Post your comments below.