Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1905 Mary Elizabeth Frye is forever associated with her one most memorable poem, Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep. She was orphaned at the age of 3 and grew up to become a florist and housewife. She had never written a poem in her life but the obvious heartache of a young woman who stayed with her, prompted Frye to put pen to paper.
The woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, was deeply worried about her ailing mother back in Germany but had been told not to return because of increasing unrest in the country, particularly against Jewish communities. Shortly after, Schwarzkopf’s mother died and she told Frye that she was heartbroken because she could not stand at her grave and shed a tear.
The poem was written on a paper shopping bag, and Frye said the words just came to her, exploring the idea of life and death. The poem was shown to friends but was never formally published or given copyright but it has been read countless times at funerals around the world in the 70 years since it was written. Frye did write other poems in her lifetime, contrary to popular belief, but none were published and she is primarily known for these 12 simple lines of verse that have meant so much to so many people.
Even The Times in England in 2004 had something to say about Frye’s poem:
Frye’s identity remained unknown for the best part of 60 years before she finally came forward as the author of the poem in 1990. Her authorship was later confirmed Abigail Van Buren a respected radio show host and columnist although there are some who still dispute that she actually wrote the poem.
Frye passed away in 2004 at the age of 99.