In this poem, the speaker reflects on how he will be remembered after he is dead. Oddly, the poet never once uses the word "death" or "die" – go to "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" for some of the euphemisms and metaphors he uses to avoid saying the D-word. Thomas Hardy was getting old when he wrote this – he was 77 years old – and he was worried about how he was going to be remembered. Yes, this is heavy stuff. But never fear: there are other, less depressing, themes to look at if this one gets you too down in the dumps.
The speaker of "Afterwards" uses euphemisms for "death" that suggest forward progression, rather than finality.
By starting the poem with the month of May, the poet suggests that the theme of death might be relieved by a springtime renewal.