Today I attended the funeral of a brother of a friend of mine. I like and respect this friend, and to honour her, her family, and her lost brother I was happy to be there.
It was not an entirely easy day for me. It brought back many memories, as I too lost a brother at too young an age. At the end of the ceremony though my friend delivered the final words, much as I had done many years ago, and I was moved by what she said. It reminded me of what I said at the end of my brothers funeral, and I’ve decided to share it here today.
For Geraldine and her brother. For my brother Simon. For everyone of you out there that has lost someone. I dedicate this to you all.
At a brother’s grave
Over the mighty world’s highway,
City by city, sea by sea,
Brother, thy brother comes to pay
Pitiful offerings unto thee.
I only ask to grace thy bier
With gifts that only give farewell,
To tell to ears that cannot hear,
The things that it is vain to tell,
And, idly communing with dust,
To know thy presence still denied,
And ever mourn forever lost
A soul that never should have died.
Yet think not wholly vain today
This fashion that our fathers gave
That hither brings me, here to lay
Some gift of sorrow on thy grave.
Take, brother, gifts a brother’s tears
Bedewed with sorrow as they fell,
And ‘Greeting’ to the end of years,
And to the end of years ‘Farewell’.
(This is a translation of poem ‘101’ by Catullus, with the translation by H. W. Garrod in 1912. I took it from Latin Literature – An Anthology from Penguin Classics. I reproduce it here exactly as it appears in the book, and exactly as I spoke it at the funeral).