If you are planning a funeral or memorial service, you may wish to include a reading or select one or two hymns to give the proceedings a personal touch. Below you’ll find lots of ideas for suitable readings, poems and hymns for a funeral.
Funeral Poems, Readings & Hymns
Say farewell to a loved one with a poem, reading or hymn for that personal touch
Who traditionally says a poem or reading at a funeral?
It’s entirely up to you who you ask. Family members or friends may choose to speak during the funeral service, either to offer a formal eulogy, recite a poem or read a passage of text. Bear in mind that for some this can be a particularly daunting task, so it is important that they feel comfortable doing so. Alternatively, you can simply ask the minister conducting the service to include a special reading or anecdote.
How to choose a poem or reading for a funeral
There are no right or wrong choices – the important point is to remember the person who has passed away and choose something that would be meaningful or pertinent to them. There are lots of examples below.
How to write a poem or reading for a funeral
If you can’t find a funeral poem you like, you could write something yourself. Some families like to get together to share memories and anecdotes which then form the basis of a poem or reading or become part of the formal eulogy.
What’s a eulogy?
A eulogy is a personal tribute to the person who has passed away. It usually takes the form of a reading by a friend or member of the family, or by the minister. It could also be a song, a poem, or even the presentation of symbolic items placed on or near the coffin such as a child’s favourite toy or something the deceased has enjoyed or treasured in life.
When preparing a eulogy, think about the following:
- What are the key points of the deceased’s life story?
- Who were the people most important to them at different points in their life?
- What hobbies or interests did they enjoy?
- What were their most memorable character traits?
- What made them special to you?
- How would they have liked to be remembered?
NON-RELIGIOUS POEMS FOR FUNERALS
Let Us Be Contented
Let us be contented with what has happened and be thankful for all that we have been spared.
Let us accept the natural order of things in which we move.
Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time.
Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows.
The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows.
Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together.
The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making-----once
Tis Only We Who Grieve
They do not leave
They are not gone.
They look upon us still
They walk among the valleys now.
They stride upon the hill
Their smile is in the summer sky.
Their grace is in the breeze
Their memories whisper in the grass,
Their calm is in the trees.
Their light is in the winter snow
Their tears are in the rain.
Their merriment runs in the brook
Their laughter in the lane.
Their gentleness is in the flowers
They sigh in Autumn leaves.
They do not leave, they are not gone
Tis only we who grieve.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
She Is Gone (He Is Gone)
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, how did he die, but how did he live?
Not, what did he gain, but what did he give?
These are the units to measure the worth
Of a man as a man, regardless of his birth.
Nor what was his church, nor what was his creed?
But had he befriended those really in need?
Was he ever ready, with words of good cheer,
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not what did the sketch in the newspaper say,
But how many were sorry when he passed away?
FUNERAL POEM FOR MUM OR DAD
My Mother Kept A Garden
My Mother kept a garden
A garden of the heart;
She planted all the good things,
That gave my life its start.
She turned me to the sunshine,
And encouraged me to dream:
Fostering and nurturing
The seeds of self-esteem.
And when the winds and rains came,
She protected me enough;
But not too much, she knew I’d need
To stand up strong and tough.
Her constant good example,
Always taught me right from wrong;
Markers for my pathway
To last my whole life long.
I am my Mother’s garden,
I am her legacy.
And I hope today she feels the love,
Reflected back from me.
To My Father
A giant pine, magnificent and old
Stood staunch against the sky and all around
Shed beauty, grace and power.
Within its fold birds safely reared their young.
The velvet ground beneath was gentle,
and the cooling shade gave cheer to passers by.
Its towering arms a landmark stood, erect and unafraid,
As if to say, “Fear naught from life’s alarms”.
It fell one day.
Where it had dauntless stood was loneliness and void.
But men who passed paid tribute – and said,
“To know this life was good,
It left its mark on me. Its work stands fast”.
And so it lives. Such life no bonds can hold –
This giant pine, magnificent and old.
RELIGIOUS POEMS FOR FUNERALS
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free, I'm following the path God laid for me. I took his hand when I heard his call, I turned my back and left it all. I could not stay another day, to laugh, to love, to work, to play. Tasks left undone must stay that way, I've found that peace at the end of the day. If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss, ah, yes, these things too I will miss. Be not burdened with times of sorrow, I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life's been full, I savoured much, good friends, good times, a loved one's touch. Perhaps my time seemed all too brief, don't lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your heart and share with me, God wanted me now, He set me free.
Janice M. Fair-Salters
I weep in love
I am glad, Lord, for I wept today. And I hid my tears inside my handkerchief. Still my eyes were burning, and my head got hot; my heart was beating fast and I felt weak, solemn thoughts rose up from my mind, and a note of thankfulness played its melody in my being. Why? I do not know. I know that drops of tears which I hid in my kerchief. Have been a stepping stone for me to thee. Lord, I cry, make me weep, And give me tears to flow; Thy loving touch transforms my grief Into joy, and peace I weep in love – I am glad, Lord, for I wept today
Meditation by an Indian Christian
May the roads rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Bible Readings for a Funeral
The Lord bless you and keep you: Numbers 6.24-26
God’s presence in the valley of the shadow of death: Psalm 23
Precious in the sight of the Lord: Psalm 116.15
Faith in action: Hebrews 11.13-16
A time for everything: Ecclesiastes 3.1-8
The death of Lazarus: John 11.1-3, 17-27, 38-44
I go to prepare a place for you: John 14.1-6
A new heaven and a new earth: Revelation 21.1-5
Nothing can separate us from the love of God: Romans 8.31-39
Death, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15.50-57
We do not grieve as those who have no hope: 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18
Non-Religious Funeral Reading
A Reflection on an Autumn Day
I took up a handful of grain and let it slip flowing through my fingers, and I said to myself This is what it is all about. There is no longer any room for pretence. At harvest time the essence is revealed – the straw and chaff are set aside, they have done their job. The grain alone matters – sacks of pure gold.
So it is when a person dies the essence of that person is revealed. At the moment of death a person’s character stands out happy for the person who has forged it well over the years. Then it will not be the great achievement that will matter, nor, how much money or possessions a person has amassed. These like the straw and the chaff, will be left behind. It is what he has made of himself that will matter. Death can take away from us what we have, but it cannot rob us of who we are.
Before the sublime mystery of life and spirit
Before the sublime mystery of life and spirit, the mystery of infinite space and endless time, we stand in reverent awe. This much we know: we are at least one phase of the immortality of life.
The mighty stream of life flows on, and, in this mighty stream, we too flow on...not lost...but each eternally significant.
For this I feel: The spirit never betrays the person who trusts it. Physical life may be defeated but life goes on; character survives, goodness lives, and love is immortal.
Col Robert G Ingersoll
Hymns are usually sung by the entire congregation and help everyone to feel part of the service. Popular funeral hymn choices are shown below. Traditional hymns are a safe choice because they will be familiar to most people. Knowing the words and music helps unite the congregation in song and gives a sense of shared hope.
It’s also worth checking with the church as some ministers are also happy to include non-religious music within the service.
Popular funeral hymns
The Lord’s My Shepherd (23rd Psalm), Abide With Me, Make Me A Channel of Your Peace,, Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us, Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven, Lord Of All Hopefulness, Love Divine
Uplifting funeral hymns
Morning Has Broken, All Things Bright And Beautiful, Ave Maria, Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Jerusalem, The Old Rugged Cross
Funeral for an Estranged Parent
A funeral is often described as a celebration of someone's life, but how should you deal with arranging or attending the funeral of an estranged parent? In this instance, it is worth considering that another purpose of a funeral is to allow those left behind to truly examine their thoughts and feelings for the departed. They may not have been the best parent, but nobody is perfect.
Sometimes we grieve for someone we don't know very well because now we've lost the chance to get to know them. Or we grieve for a parent or relative we didn't get on with because the possibility of a more positive future relationship has been lost. A funeral can be a good time to acknowledge the feelings you have.