Tomorrow I have to conduct a funeral for a baby - only the second time I've done this - and I looked back over my notes from the last time to see what I could adapt for this time (I was called yesterday afternoon and don't meet the parents until this afternoon, it's all being done in a rush, at least by local standards). As I read over my order of service, I found I had used a prayer that I really liked, and which having checked it out is adapted from one of Jewish origin.
Because it is so useful, I have reproduced it here in its orignal form:
Lord, without our consent we are born, without our consent we live, without our consent we die, without our consent our bodies return to the grave and we go forward to life everlasting. We cannot always understand Your plans and we do not see Your ways, for our minds are overwhelmed and ur eyes too weak. Yet to comfort us and give us hope You lift the veil of eternity, and we are permitted to know that the world is a corridor, and we are on a journey, that the end is perfection, and the reward is peace.
For a short time You gave into our care a child whom we loved. Our hearts would be broken if we did not know that You are love itself, which makes good all that is lost. The tears would never leave our eyes if we did not know that at the end You bring all together, with mercy and tenderness, in the gathering of life. Therefore with sadness and hope we commend the soul of N into your care. You are with her/him, we cannot fear.
And here is my order of service, with generic prayers, for neonatal or young baby's funeral:
Opening Sentences and Readings
We meet together today to say our farewells NAME, to give thanks for the love and hope she/he awakened, to celebrate her/his short life and to commend her/him to the care of God. Everyone who is here today has come because, in some way, NAME’s life, and her/his death, has touched their own.
As we meet, we are each aware of our own feelings: of injustice, of shock, of bewilderment, maybe even of anger. These feelings are not wrong; there are questions to which we will never find answers. There are also sources of comfort and hope for a time such as this, and the ancient writing of the Bible, telling the stories of people like us, speaks of a God who understands our pain and confusion and who promises to be with us in every moment.
Jesus said ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’
God has said, ‘I will never leave you: I will never abandon you.’
The eternal God is our hiding place; he carries us in his arms
Lamentations 3: 21-24 GNB
Hope returns when I remember this one thing:
The LORD's unfailing love and mercy still continue,
Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
The LORD is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.
NAME had a short life, growing in the quiet security of his/her mother’s womb and X brief [spring/summer/autumn/winter] days/weeks/months in the world we share. In that short time she/he was loved by many, and today our thoughts and prayers are with those who have known and loved her/him best: her/his parents, A and B; sisters …. and brothers …..
Meeting the context of Christian worship, we come into the presence of this same God with our prayers.
We come before you now in our brokenness and pain, with our questions and anxiety, needing reassurance that we are not alone in this moment but that you are here with us. Your word tells us that you are a safe place for us, and at this time we seek the sanctuary of your arms.
We come to you to give thanks for NAME, for the hope and love she/he awoke within us, for the dreams we dreamed and the plans we dared to plan. We come to thank you for the way that she/he has changed our own lives for the better and shown us that worth is not measured in years or earthly achievements.
We come to commit NAME and ourselves into your safekeeping, to find a place of release for our grief and the courage to face the future without her/him.
God of healing and compassion, hear this our prayer, which we offer in the NAME of Jesus who said ‘let the little children come to me and do not stop them, for the Kingdom of God beings to such as these.’ Amen.
Hymn/Song, if desired
Poem or other reading, if desired
Psalm 139: 13- 16a
You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart.
When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there - you saw me before I was born.
Psalm 23: 4
I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won't be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd's rod makes me feel safe.
To acknowledge and celebrate life before birth and, however short, in the world; to name aloud the questions/hurts that are real, recognising there are no satisfactory answers; to give thanks for the hope and love this fleeting life awoke in others, if appropriate recalling special moments; to give hope in the darkness of loss
Hymn or Music, if desired
Father God, we thank you for the life of NAME, for the hope and love she/he awakened in her/his parents, siblings, grandparents and wider circle of family and friends. We thank you for the courage and determination she/he showed, clinging to life and allowing his family to know her/him, if only for a moment. Though our hearts are breaking and we will miss her/him terribly, we thank you that she/he is free from suffering and pain.
We pray for her/his parents, for A and B, each needing to be strong for the other (and for their children), yet each one needing space to grieve. May they each find comfort in the love of family and friends at this time. We pray for …. as they mourn their baby sister/brother; please help them to understand what it means to say goodbye to NAME. May they know the security of their family’s love as they find the strength to go on into the future.
We pray for the wider circle of family and friends, to many to name but each with special needs on this day. Help them to support each other and find comfort and hope for the future.
For a short time you gave into our care a little girl/boy to love. Our hearts would be forever broken if we did not have the assurance that you are love and always here with us. Our tears would never stop flowing if we did not know your mercy and tenderness. And so it is as hope and sorrow mix together, that we thank you for NAME and commend him to you. In Jesus name, Amen.
Commendation and Committal
Please would you stand as a mark of repsect for NAME
Heavenly Father, you have given us life and in Jesus you promise a new life, which nothing can destroy. We entrust NAME into your safe-keeping: greet her/him with your love and surround her/him with your healing power so that she/he may live in your presence as a whole child of God, for your glory and delight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We have given thanks for NAME’s life, we have commended her/him to the grace of Almighty God, and now we must say farewell and release her/his body to be cremated…
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust
In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord life up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Music, as desired