By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

Known Unto God - Thoughts on Funerals

Funerals for people we’ve never met make us vulnerable – vulnerable to the whims of family who may choose to omit certain details (for which we will be blamed), vulnerable to the wiles of funeral directors who have schedules to maintain, vulnerable to our own sense of inadequacy and/or the odd buttons that might get pushed or phantoms disturbed.  But at least where there is family there is something to hear and so something to say (as well as not to say).  The really tricky ones are those where all we have is a name, an age and a date of death, along with a time and a place for the funeral.


This has been occupying my mind a lot this week, and was brought into stark relief this morning when I received the ‘standard’ fee from the funeral director for tomorrow’s service, which I can’t see lasting more than ten minutes (though has taken several times that to work through).  Looking at the rectangle of paper that is a cheque, laid alongside two sides of white typed A4 including prayers, a Bible reading, an eight line tribute and words of committal, it all felt very, very sad. 


I thought again of the funeral with no mourners and the sense that all I could really say of the person was ‘known unto God.’  And is that enough?  On one hand, it is all that is needed, all that, ultimately, matters but it seems so inadequate to sum up a life, especially a long life.  And if the funeral is reduced to three words, twelve letters, that works out at around £9 a letter, £35 a word, which is at once obscenely expensive and cheap sentiment.


Recalling a simple wooden coffin, topped by a small wreath, in which were held the mortal remains of an elderly woman arriving alone at a crematorium, and anticipating something similar tomorrow in a hillside cemetery, these thoughts arise:


Known Unto God

Is it enough to say of her, ‘known unto God?’

What is expressed when I say of him ‘known unto God?’


What were her girlish dreams,

His boyhood ambitions?

Known unto God


What made them laugh?

Did they dance or sing?

Known unto God


What was her proudest moment,

His greatest day?

Known unto God


Who did they love – and who loved them?

Who broke their hearts – and whose did they break?

Known unto God


What secret longings were never fulfilled?

What painful regrets were never addressed?

Known unto God.


Who now will mourn them, and who is left?

Who will remember the life that was theirs?

Known unto God


Inadequate sufficiency,

Essentials fulfilled:

Known unto God


‘Jim’ and ‘Mabel,’

John Doe, Jane Doe,

Unknown soldier,

Unnamed foetus:

Known unto God

For ever



  • I found this and your previous post profoundly moving - thank you. Thinking of you today.

  • Thank you, Geoff

  • As we have no speaker booked this week I am showing the recent Home Mission video about Buttershawe Baptist Church as part of our morning worship. I had considered showing it before or after our service but watching it again yesterday (just to check the running length) I felt that it was worthy of actually being part of our worship - so moving are the testimonies that I was fighting back the tears by the end. Then today, I read your poem "Known Unto God" and felt that this was the perfect accompaniment to the video - both the video and the poem expressing the immensity of God's love as it reaches the lost, the needy and particularly in the case of the poem, the 'un-loved' of this world. With your permission I would like to read your poem this Sunday.

  • Hi Richard,
    thank you for your kind words - yes you are very welcome to use my words. That DVD is so powerful isn't it? Hope your service goes well.

The comments are closed.