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Sample graveside service

This may be used as a graveside service following or in place of a memorial service, or as a separate service for the placing of ashes.

Here we have gathered in memory of _________ [full name], so that we may together perform one final duty of love. As an act of remembrance, with reverence and love, we have gathered to place his/her ashes/remains here in this cemetery. In so doing, we trust that somehow what was best in _________’s life will not be lost, but will rejoin the great web of creation.

Let us join together in the spirit of prayer and meditation, first by hearing familiar words from the book of Ecclesiastes, and then with a time of silence....

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to reap;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to gain, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

So wrote the ancient prophet.

[Time of silence.]

Instead of the reading from Ecclesiastes, May Sarton's poem "All Souls" or Birago Diop's poem "Breaths" may be substituted (the poems are not included here due to copyright restrictions).

In this present moment, grief and memories live side by side in our hearts. In the days and months ahead, grief can move from numbness and pain, settling to a deeper place in our hearts; so it may be that the memories of that which was best in him/her can shine forth more fully. Let us pause in silence for a moment, taking time to remember our favorite memories of _________'s life. So we may honor that which was best in _________’s life.

[At the option of the family, this may be a time for family members to share memories aloud. Or this may be a time of silence.]

There is a finality in placing _________’s remains in this place. Yet in so doing, we can release ourselves to grieve more fully, to feel more deeply, to remember more clearly, and to let ourselves learn to live out what was best in her life.

Now we place these ashes/remains in the ground; what has come from the earth goes back to the earth; so the cycle of life turns yet again.

[Place ashes or remains.]

We have truly let _________ go. Having completed this final task, may we go forth in quiet, with a measure of peace, so that we may live out our own lives with renewed memory and with deepened love for one another.

We end with these words:

May the truth that sets us free
And the hope that never dies
And the love that casts out fear
Be with us now
Until dayspring breaks
And the shadows flee away.

We have been blessed by life; go in peace. Amen.