This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
The Commander stands at the head of the coffin; the Chaplain at its foot; the officers and Past-Commander in the rear of the Commander; the Post behind the Chaplain, and the Post colors stationed in the front.
This arrangement having been completed, the Commander says:
"Assembled to pay our last tribute of respect to this dead soldier
(or sailor) of our Republic, let us unite in prayer. The Chaplain will invoke the Divine blessing."
The Chaplain offers a brief and appropriate prayer, to which the comrades add a simultaneous "Amen!" If a choir is present, a hymn is sung; after which the Commander delivers a short address in unison with the occasion.
At its close, a comrade, laying a wreath of evergreens or flowers upon the coffin, says: "In behalf of the Post, I give this tribute, a symbol of undying love, for comrades of the war."
A second comrade, laying upon the coffin a rose or other flower, says: "Symbol of purity, we offer at this lowly grave a rose. May future generations emulate the unselfish devotion of even the lowliest of our heroes."
A third comrade, laying a laurel-leaf upon the coffin, says: "Last token of affection from comrades in arms, we crown these remains with a symbol of victory."
Chaplain's Address at the Grave.
The Chaplain's address, which immediately follows, is of the following import:
"The march of another comrade is over, and he lies down after it in the house appointed for all the living. Thus summoned, this open grave reminds us of the frailty of human life and the tenure by which we hold our own. 'In such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.'
"It seems well that we should leave our comrade to rest where over him will bend the arching sky, as it did in great love when he pitched his tent, or lay down, weary and footsore, by the way or on the battlefield for an hour's sleep."
[Should it be a sailor's funeral, the Chaplain substitutes for the foregoing paragraph the following: "As we leave our comrade to rest, no longer to hear the sound of the waves, or float upon the bosom of the deep, no longer to sail beneath peaceful skies, or to be driven before the angry storm, may he find welcome in that land where there is no more sea."]
"As he was then, so he is still - in the hands of the Heavenly Father. 'God giveth his beloved sleep.'
"As we lay him down here to rest, let us in great charity forget each foible of our deceased comrade as human, and cherish only his virtues. Reminded also, forcibly, by the vacant place so lately filled by our deceased brother that our ranks are thinning, let each one be so loyal to every virtue, so true to every friendship, so faithful in our remaining march, that we shall be ready to fall out here to take our places at the great review, not with doubt, but in faith; the merciful Captain of our salvation will call us to that fraternity which, on earth and in heaven, may remain unbroken." (A moment's pause.) "Jesus saith, ' Thy brother shall rise again. I am the Resurrection and the Life.' " (The remains are here deposited in the grave.) "Behold, the silver cord having been loosed, the golden bowl broken, we commit this body to the grave, where dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit to God who gave it. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, looking for the resurrection and the life to come through our Lord Jesus Christ."
After a prayer, the Post forms again in marching order and returns to its hall.
Address at the Funeral
Of an active, useful man who dies in middle-life.
Friends: A broken column most fittingly represents the untimely death of a man thus in middle-life. And when to live was so desirable - when the work to be done had been but just commenced, it is doubly painful to bid adieu to the friend thus passing into the unknown. And yet, in the mysterious way by which great blessings are wrought, we are compelled to admit that possibly in this dispensation some good will come to these mourning friends that cannot now be seen.
He has laid his burdens suddenly down. We can hardly reconcile ourselves to the thought that others should take them up, and yet the future may reveal the good, the discipline that there may be in this - He goes out into the unknown, and all is blank. He leaves his labor here unfinished, and unskilled hands must carry to completion the work which he has begun. All seems wrong, and we refuse to be comforted, and yet who shall say it is not best?
Other hands and minds may assume his task and do it so well that his labor and influence shall not be lost. And he - well, we do not know what grand fields of thought and action he may enter upon, but we feel that he is not dead. To say that death ends all is to admit creation a failure. Why be born? Why be brought into existence, merely to toil, to suffer and die, with no compensation on earth?
To millions, if this earth was all, life would not be worth the living. To create man simply to live out his brief time here without purpose and then die, would be like the construction of a machine for the simple purpose of making it. But as we do not construct for simple experiment, as we do not build to simply tear down again, so we do not believe the God of nature makes anything in vain; but, on the contrary, that in the creation of man he had a great, grand plan, the fulfillment of which we see but dimly shadowed on earth.
Change is constantly going forward, but annihilation and death never take place in nature.
"There is no such thing as death - In nature nothing dies; From each sad remnant of decay Some forms of life arise. The little leaf that falls All brown and sere to earth, Ere long will mingle with the buds That give the flower its birth."
And as in nature nothing dies, so man does not. Life here is but the budding to a life beyond, the first steps, the primer school. And what we call death is but another birth - the passing through of the real self into a broader sphere beyond, to be great and good and blessed there, in proportion to the life well-lived and the good done on earth.
The house in which our brother dwelt is left behind. It was but the simple habitation fitted for his use while he remained here. Always frail, it took but a breath to shatter it, and when at length there came a shock strong enough to weaken it, and our friend could no longer remain, he passed into the unseen, and we behold left only the tenement in which he lived.
Between himself and where we stand there hangs a curtain, beyond which, wisely, we cannot in this life see. But we can hope and believe. And as in nature there is no death, so faith tells us our brother is not dead, but living - wiser, greater, grander than ever before, because he was great and good here, with opportunities multiplied for happiness and advancement, a thousand fold. For do we not, if we live rightly here, advance from a lower to a higher sphere on earth, and shall not our advancement be always?
Glorious thought! As we cannot live a twelvemonth on earth without increased knowledge, so, as the cycles of time go their unceasing rounds, man must, in obedience to the eternal law of progress, be forever growing wiser and richer in the knowledge of truth and justice and right.
We gather to-day to mourn as for the departure of a friend whom we shall not soon see again, but we have faith that we shall meet him a little way on in the future. And the eye that shone so brilliantly, and the voice that addressed us so kindly, and the hand that grasped our own so cordially, will again greet us on the other side.