Flying to a funeral—a poem


View from a small plane over the city of Wellington, New Zealand

Flying back home to Wellington in a very small plane

We are flying to a funeral.

We check in early, in person
as old people do.
We are careful and inward
as old people can be.

We will be happy for she was happy
and strong and funny and old.
A good person who died old
after a single stroke.

We skim a remarkable life
that forged a remarkable woman.
Childhood in a canvas tent
in a swamp of poverty and mud

made her wickedly frugal
with cash
and lavish with love.
She was loved and she was needed.

Her death was in the natural
scheme of things
and her funeral is good
and we are satisfied.

She is all out now
She flies outward
She occupies a space far wider
than a blue, blue coffin.

In Memory of Gloria Dawn Ryan, 31 July 1931–19 March 2019

Please share if it pleases you. cc by 2.0 rachel mcalpine

12 thoughts on “Flying to a funeral—a poem

  1. A beautiful poem for a well-loved friend.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you.

  2. toritto says:

    I am old and flying to a funeral Saturday. She was my mother’s younger sister. She grew up in a loving foster home when their mother died. My mm went to an orphanage run by Benedictine nuns in Manhattan. She married. had three children and then buried her husband shortly after his retirement. Then she buried her eldest daughter and then her son. I will join together with our family to say goodbye. I am now the patriarch. Thanks for this/

    Best regards from Florida.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh my, what a timely connection, and how deep is the story of your aunt. I hope it too is a good funeral.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      This is good of you.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to a friend as she flies into that luminous space, far wider than her blue blue coffin. X

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      And her eyes were the bluest ever!

  4. hilarymb says:

    Hi Rachel – a lovely soft tribute to a woman you loved, who gave much to her family and the world … thank you – Hilary

  5. JOY journal says:


  6. chattykerry says:

    That is a beautiful memorial for your friend. I send my condolences. My uncle is Scotland has pancreatic cancer and a sad, long flight awaits me.

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