It’s a sad thing when someone dies with no next of kin…no friends or loved ones to see to funeral arrangements, last wishes, or even, to attend the funeral. I suppose for the most part, the unfortunate departed one would probably be cremated and no funeral would be held…at least in most places that would be the case. That seems even more sad than someone who lived their last days alone, with no friends and no family. It’s almost like being thrown away.

In Amsterdam, however, they just can’t stand the thought of such a sad end to such a sad life. So, they began a tradition. In a heart-warming tribute to those lost souls who pass without any next of kin or friends, a poet will write a poem and even recite it at the funeral. What an incredible act of kindness and compassion!! These poets are not paid for their services, and yet they take to time to write a poem specifically for the newly departed person, even though the poet never knew the departed.

Frank Starik leads a group of poets in Amsterdam. These poets attend the funerals of the city’s “unmourned” dead, remembering them with a specially composed poem. “I want to give them back a life, a history” he told Reuters reporter Alexandra Hudson. The social services in Amsterdam bury around 250 people a year, and about 15 of those depart with no trace of relatives or friends. For most of us that seems unheard of and shocking, but I suppose that these people are often buried or cremated with little fanfare, so we rarely hear anything about them, but these are the cases closely watched by the poet group, so they can step in and give their own tribute and a labor of compassion and love for a person who had no one to love them. While the poets write their poems, the city contributes by providing a coffin, bouquet of flowers, and even plays music best guessed to be the deceased’s choice of music. I’m not sure how they know what music to use, but maybe they look at the things in the deceased’s home, or anything else like name the wearing of a cross. I love these acts of kindness, and what social worker told Reuters when he said, “Everyone in Amsterdam – rich or poor – should have a dignified funeral, with flowers, with coffee and some thoughts about their life. We are not responsible for how they lived, but we are responsible for them in death, and if they died in Amsterdam then they are one of us.” I can’t think of an act of kindness that is more touching than this. Well done, Amsterdam. Well done.

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