“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Frye

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 rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye was a unique author. She could be called an author of one poem. In fact, an American housewife, passionate florist, and avid reader, Mary Frye wrote several tenths of poems. Yet, only one of them became really famous. Its fame exceeded far beyond the borders of her native country.

The poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”, composed in the state of creative irradiation, had a certain aim: Mary Frye wanted to help a girl to go through a terrible loss, the loss of her mother. The poet herself could very well understand these feeling, as she lost her own mother at the age of three. The person, for whom the poem was composed, was a Jewish girl who had not been able to see her dying mother in Germany because of anti-Semitic unrest.

The simple words of consolation, alluding to the Bible, really helped people to go through a loss. The line “Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there. I do not sleep” could be heard for more than 75 year, on thousands of funerals. Yet the name of the author remained unknown to almost all the people who sought consolation. It gave them a chance to get rid of the feeling that, if a human life could be interrupted so suddenly and so cruelly, it has no meaning at all.

Where do our dearest people disappear after death? “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 rain”. Words cannot return people, but they can show death as the birth of a new life.

The poem was created in 1932, but it was not until 1998 that the identity of the author became known. Abigail Van Buren, an American advice columnist and radio show host led a research that enabled her to confirm that the author of this simple untitled verse was actually Mary Elizabeth Frye. It is also Abigail Van Buren’s merit that this fact became widely known among TV audience and newspaper readers.

The fact that this verse has almost become a folk one, can be confirmed by its popularity in mass media. For instance, the lines of the poem can be heard more than once in one of the most successful TV series of the beginning of this century, comedy-drama film Desperate Housewives, created by Marc Cherry. By the way, some critics are sure that this series was actually created as a tribute to the genius housewife, who had no formal education, but managed to create a real masterpiece. A poem that is capable of healing human souls from the pain of loss.

Reviewed by Katerina Sidoruk

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