In Florida while vacationing with her Radcliffe friends


My friend Winky Hussey sent me this poem after mom died. It has often been identifed as a Native American prayer, but in fact was written by an American woman named Mary Elizabeth Frye in 1932. The origins of the poem, described here on Wikipedia, have particular resonance for me because I was unable to spend much time with my mother before she died. Frye was inspired to write it when a German Jewish refugee who was staying with her, Margaret Schwartzkopf, expressed deep sorrow over not being able to return to Germany in the dangerous early days of the 1930s to see her own mother who was ill and dying. After her mother died, Schwartzkopf told Frye she was heartbroken at being unable to “stand by my mother’s grave and shed a tear.” Here is the poem, which Frye apparently drafted on a brown paper shopping bag:

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 star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.

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