The lines that follow were excerpted from Hamlet’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s play:
To die, to sleep, to sleep,| perchance to dream;
Aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death,
what dreams may come
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause.
The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all who, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil, and it is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality. My sister’s husband had recently died and I included the poem in a letter.
This is the letter I sent to my sister following the death of her husband:
July 11, 1993
It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it became more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.
Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or dream. We can title it I am not dead and accept it as being the voice of one we’ve loved and lost, or we can title it We are not dead and accept it as being the voices of all those we’ve loved and lost. Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title the poem, in the words of Hamlet, must give us pause.
I choose to entitle the poem as the voice of one we’ve loved and lost:
I am not dead
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
Re: Dear Abby—the following biographical sketch was extracted from Wikipedia:
Pauline Phillips (born July 4, 1918 as Pauline “Popo” Esther Friedman) is an advice columnist and radio show host who founded the “Dear Abby” column in 1956. The current Dear Abby is her first-born child and only daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren, which was also used by Pauline. She also has a son, Edward Jay Phillips.
Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips was an identical twin; her sister, Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, wrote the Ann Landers column until her death from multiple myeloma in 2002, at age 83. As children, the two grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and went by the nicknames “Popo” and “Eppie,” respectively. Both are alumnae of Morningside College and both wrote for the college newspaper. They were so close then that they had a joint wedding in 1939 when both women were 21 years old. They were both Jewish.