photo © 2015, Jessica Lifland
WHEN I LEAVE THIS LIFE
by Elizabeth Ebert 1925-2018
When I leave this life as we all must do
…..And this prairie I’ve loved through the long, long years
There’s a single boon that I ask of you,
…..Don’t waste one precious day in tears.
Have a funeral if you feel you must
…..With the usual rituals for the dead,
A plain pine box, not satin-lined
…..But with a blanket, preferably in red.
No cloying masses of hothouse flowers,
…..Just a cluster of bright balloons, and then
No extolling of virtues I never had,
…..Just a simple prayer and a soft “A-men.”
Let the memories be of the happy times,
…..Let the sound of laughter grace the day.
Find an old cowhand with an old guitar
…..To yodel me joyfully on my way.
And later, whenever the time seems right,
…..On a sunny day from a greening hill,
Scatter my ashes into the wind.
…..Then I shall be part of the prairie still.
© 2006, Elizabeth Ebert, from Prairie Wife
This poem should not be reposted or reprinted without permission
There’s an empty place in the cowboy poetry world that won’t ever be filled: Yvonne Hollenbeck shared the sad news of the passing of beloved South Dakota poet and ranchwoman Elizabeth Ebert, 93, on March 20, 2018.
A Celebration of Life Service for Elizabeth Ebert will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Calvary Lutheran Church in Lemmon, South Dakota. Find an obituary here.
Elizabeth Ebert introduced this poem in her book, Prairie Wife, writing, “Our youngest daughter has promised that when we die our ashes will be mixed together and scattered on this land that we love so well.” She reminded her family that yesterday would have been her 72nd wedding anniversary. Her husband S.J., about whom she wrote many great and varied poems, died in 2008.
Find some of her poetry at CowboyPoetry.com. Seek out her books and recordings.
Journalist Carson Vaughan wrote about Elizabeth Ebert in a February, 2017 American Cowboy profile, “The Grande Dame of Cowboy Poetry.” He quotes her devoted friend Baxter Black about the first time her heard her perform her poetry, “You could just see a flower growing there out of the rest of us standing around like weeds.”
This photograph by photojournalist Jessica Lifland was taken at the 2015 Western Folklife Center’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. See more of her photos of Elizabeth Ebert in a wonderful collection from a forthcoming project here.