“I Did Not Die”

“Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there.

I did not die.”

● Do you know this poem? Have you heard it sung? During the last few decades, this poem has brought comfort to people around the world. It has been attributed to different poets over the years. Some have even claimed that it is a Navajo burial prayer. In English it is known, not by its closing lines mentioned above, but by its first line: “Do not stand at my grave and weep.”

The poem became a major hit song in Japan a few years ago, but it also caused a lot of confusion. The Japanese often visit their family’s grave to pay respects to relatives presumed to be still alive there. As a result of this song teaching otherwise, many have asked, “Just where are the dead?”

Japanese Buddhists have long held funerals, wakes, and memorial services. But most Buddhists are unable to answer the question, Where are the dead? Or other questions, such as: Do the dead of other religions and nationalities go to the same place? Why do the dead not respond?

Many feel that such questions are unanswerable and that it is a waste of time even to search for the answers. Still, you may wonder, ‘What happens when we die?’ Just where might answers be found? The Bible says that God created the first human couple perfect and gave them a beautiful garden home. They had the prospect of living forever in Paradise on earth if they obeyed God. But they did not.

So God took action. He expelled the couple from their Paradise home and stopped sustaining their lives. He explained the consequences of their disobedience: “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Man was made from the dust, and eventually​—at death—​he returns to it.​—Genesis 2:7; 3:19, King James Version.

A man in Kofu, Japan, who tends a large grave noted: “The urns are full of ashes and bones when I put them in the grave. After about five years, they are half empty. After ten years there is absolutely nothing left in many of the urns.” Our bodies are composed of elements in the soil, and in time they disintegrate to dust again. So, what is left?

Although all consciousness ends at death, our Maker, who is even aware of each sparrow that dies, lovingly remembers us. (Matthew 10:29-31) As he has promised, he will resurrect us, yes, bring us back to life. He will call us forth from the sleep of death.​—Job 14:13-15; John 11:21-23, 38-44.

If you would like to know more about this subject, you are invited to write to the publishers of this magazine, who will be glad to furnish further information, or visit our Web site at www.watchtower.org.