Funeral Poetry

Verse and Poems for Funeral Readings

Are you looking for a verse or poem to read at a funeral? Maybe you would like to pay tribute to Mum or Dad with a funeral poem? There are many beautiful pieces of poetry, readings and verse that can enhance a funeral service or ceremony whether it is religious or non-religious. We have collected some of the best poems for funerals.

(Natural Endings arrange funerals in Manchester, Cheshire, South Lancashire and some areas of Merseyside)

The lower section of this page has religious readings. The upper section lists non-religious poems and readings (click here for information about humanist/non-religious funerals)

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.
David Harkins

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there.
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there.
I did not die.
Mary Frye

Death Is Nothing At All

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
Canon Henry Scott-Holland

 

We Remember Him (We Remember Her)

When we are weary and in need of strength,
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember him.
When we have a joy we crave to share
When we have decisions that are difficult to make
When we have achievements that are based on his
We remember him.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember him.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember him.
At the rising of the sun and at its setting,
We remember him.
As long as we live, he too will live
For he is now a part of us,
As we remember him.

Adapted from the Yizkor Service 

Parable On Immortality

I am standing upon the seashore.  A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.  She is an object of beauty and strength.  I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other.  Then someone at my side says, “There she goes.”

Gone where?  Gone from my sight…that is all.  She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination.  Her diminished size is in me, not in her.  And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes”, there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

Henry Van Dyke

 

Let Me Go

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.
When I am dead my dearest
Sing no sad songs for me
Plant thou no roses at my head
Nor shady cypress tree
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet
And if thou wilt remember
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not fear the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
Christina Rosetti

Remember

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.
Christina Rosetti

Our memories build a special bridge

When loved ones have to part
To help us feel were with them still
And soothe a grieving heart
They span the years and warm our lives
Preserving ties that bind
Our memories build a special bridge
And bring us peace of mind
Emily Mathews

There is no night without a dawning

No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing ….
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, care worn world
Into a brighter day
Helen Steiner Rice

You’ve just walked on ahead of me

And I’ve got to understand
You must release the ones you love
And let go of their hand.
I try and cope the best I can
But I’m missing you so much
If I could only see you
And once more feel your touch.
Yes, you’ve just walked on ahead of me
Don’t worry I’ll be fine
But now and then I swear I feel
Your hand slip into mine.

If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.
Joyce Grenfell

If I should die and
Leave you here awhile
Be not like others sore undone,
Who keep long vigils
By the silent dust and weep.
For my sake turn again
To life and smile
Nerving thy heart
And trembling hand to do
Something to comfort
Other hearts than thine.
Complete these dear
Unfinished Tasks of mine,
And I, perchance
May therein comfort you.
Mary Lee Hall

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget..
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember
And haply may forget.
Christina Rossetti

At every turning of my life
I came across
Good friends,
Friends who stood by me
Even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell
My friends
I smile and
Bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears
For I need them not
All I need is your smile.
If you feel sad
Do think of me
For that’s what I’ll like.
When you live in the hearts
Of those you love
Remember then
You never die.
Rabindranath Tagore

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?
Anonymous

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
e.e.cummings

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.
William Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality

And when the stream that overflows has passed,
A consciousness remains upon the silent shore of memory;
Images and precious thoughts that shall not be
And cannot be destroyed.
William Wordsworth, from The Excursion

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.

Footprints on the sands of time

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! –
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends It gives a lovely light!
Edna St.Vincent Millay

Readings With Faith

“…You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot
unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death,
open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires
lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity…

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides,
that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance…”
Kahlil Gibran

We seem to give them back to Thee, 0 God who gayest them to us.
Yet as Thou didst not lose them in giving,
So do we not lose them by their return.
Not as the world giveth, givest Thou 0 Lover of souls.
What Thou givest Thou takest not away,
For what is Thine is ours also if we are thine.
And life is eternal and love is immortal,
And death is only an horizon,
And an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, strong Son of God that we may see further;
Cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly;
Draw us closer to Thyself
That we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with Thee.
And while Thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place,
That where Thou art we may be also for evermore.
Adapted by Bishop Brent

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says She is gone

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large now as when I last saw her. Her diminished size and total loss from my sight is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says she is gone there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon and other voices take up a glad shout There she comes!

That is what dying is. An horizon and just the limit of our sight. Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further
Bishop Brent

Irish Blessing

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.
Anon

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
If only we could see the splendour of the land
To which our loved ones are called from you and me
We’d understand
If only we could hear the welcome they receive
From old familiar voices all so dear
We would not grieve
If only we could know the reason why they went
We’d smile and wipe away the tears that flow
And wait content.
Anon

When we lose a loved one
Our world just falls apart
We think that we cant carry on
With this broken heart
Everything is different now
You’re upset and you’re annoyed
Your world it seems is shattered
There’s such an awful void
There’s got to be a reason
And we have to understand
God made us and at any time
Hell reach down for our hand
There might not be a warning
We won’t know where or when
The only thing were certain of
Is well meet them once again.
Anon

Responses for a Burial

Into the darkness and warmth of the earth
We lay you down
Into the sadness and smiles of our memories
We lay you down
Into the cycle of living and dying and rising again
We lay you down
May you rest in peace, in fulfilment, in loving
May you run straight home in God’s embrace
Ruth Burgess

Responses for a Cremation

Into the freedom of wind and sunshine
We let you go
Into the dance of the stars and the planets
We let you go
Into the wind’s breath and the hands of the star maker
We let you go
We love you, we miss you, we want you to be happy
Go safely, go dancing, go running home
Ruth Burgess

God looked around his garden
And found an empty place,
He then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face.
He put his arms around you
And lifted you to rest.
God’s garden must be beautiful
He always takes the best.
He knew that you were suffering
He knew you were in pain.
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.
He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb.
So he closed your weary eyelids
And whispered, ‘Peace be Thine’.
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn’t go alone,
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.

Note; Other more contemporary writers and poets that you might want to consider are Philip Larkin, Margaret Hansford and C Day Lewis. We can not include newer poetry because of copyright.