Choosing the right poem for a funeral, one that will set just the right tone, can be a difficult decision. If you have been asked to find and read a funeral poem, you need to consider your audience and how they will be feeling in that moment. A poetry reading is a chance within the service for everyone to independently reflect on whichever topic you choose.

Poems at a funeral can be incredibly moving.  They cause us to confront our emotions, as difficult as that might be, and can inspire such a range of responses. One poem might create a wave of positivity whilst another might cause deep reflection on the life of the deceased. How do you want the listener to feel?

You may wish to choose a shorter poem, or just a passage from a longer piece, so that you hold the audience’s attention for the whole time you are reading. Choose a poem you feel comfortable and confident reading – some older poems use Old English, containing phrases that are tricky to pronounce. Read through the poem a few times before the service, and in front of a family member or friend, to ensure you are fully prepared.

Many funeral poems set a mood of optimism in spite of death, however others simply acknowledge the loss and devastating grief. Read through the following poems, thinking about what mood you want to create, and what you would like the audience to be thinking about.

Feel free to ask your chosen funeral director for further suggestions for funeral poetry.

 

Classic Funeral Poems

Below are funeral poems which you’ll often hear at a service. These are suitable for a variety of occasions and a variety of different people.

By Herself and Her Friends, by Joyce Grenfell

If I should go 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.

The Loss of a Treasure, by Paul Irion

A death has occurred and everything is changed.

We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again,

That yesterday is over,

That relationships once rich have ended.

But there is another way to look upon this truth.

If life now went on the same,

Without the presence of the one who had died,

We could only conclude that the life we remember

Made no contribution,

Filled no space,

Meant nothing.

The fact that this person left behind a place

that cannot be filled is a high tribute to this individual.

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost,

But never after the loss of a treasure.

Afterglow by Helen Lowrie Marshall

I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.

I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.

I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,

Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.

I’d like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun

Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, by Mary Frye

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 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.

Memory Can Tell Us Only What We Were, by Richard Fife

Memory can tell us only what we were,

In company with those we loved;

It cannot help us find out what each of us,

Alone, must now become.

Yet, no person is really alone;

Those who live no more still echo

Within our thoughts and words,

And what they did has become

Woven into what we are.

I will wait for you…, by Stephen O’Brien

I will wait for you…

Though we never had a chance to say goodbye,

Remember me…

When winter snows are falling through a quiet sky

I’ll remember you

When, in our darkest hour,

You held my hand and prayed I wouldn’t go,

But a silent voice called out to me;

My time had come, and I had to travel Home…

Since then, I know your life has never been the same,

For I visit you each day:

So many times I’ve felt your pain:

I’ve watched you cry:

And I’ve heard you call my name…

But now, further along life’s road I stand

In a timeless world, just beyond your sight,

Waiting for the day when I can take your hand and and bring you across

To this land of Golden Light…

Till then, remember me, you understand – and try not to cry.

But if you do:

Let your tears fall

For the happiness and joy we knew,

And for the special love we shared,

For love can never die.

Funeral poems for a mother

You may be interested in a poem that was written specifically as a tribute to a mum. Usually these poems concentrate on the role of a mother in the reader’s lives, in recognition of the person they were.

 

Mother

We had a wonderful mother,

One who never really grew old;

Her smile was made of sunshine,

And her heart was solid gold;

Her eyes were as bright as shining stars,

And in her cheeks fair roses you see.

We had a wonderful mother,

And that’ s the way it will always be.

But take heed, because

She’s still keeping an eye on all of us,

So let’s make sure

She will like what she sees.

Only One Mother

You can only have one mother

Patient kind and true;

No other friend in all the world,

Will be the same to you.

When other friends forsake you,

To mother you will return,

For all her loving kindness,

She asks nothing in return.

As we look upon her picture,

Sweet memories we recall,

Of a face so full of sunshine,

And a smile for one and all.

Sweet Jesus, take this message,

To our dear mother up above;

Tell her how we miss her,

And give her all our love.

To My Mother

For all the times you gently picked me up,

When I fell down,

For all the times you tied my shoes

And tucked me into bed,

Or needed something

But put me first instead.

For everything we shared,

The dreams, the laughter,

And the tears,

I love you with a special love

That deepens every year.

The Mother, by Robert Service

There will be a singing in your heart,

There will be a rapture in your eyes;

You will be a woman set apart,

You will be so wonderful and wise.

You will sleep, and when from dreams you start,

As of one that wakes in Paradise,

There will be a singing in your heart,

There will be a rapture in your eyes.

There will be a moaning in your heart

There will be an anguish in your eyes;

You will see your dearest ones depart,

You will hear their quivering good-byes.

Yours will be the heartache and the smart,

Tears that scald and lonely sacrifice;

There will be a moaning in your heart,

There will be an anguish in your eyes.

There will come a glory in your eyes,

There will come a peace within your heart;

Sitting ‘neath the quiet evening skies,

Time will dry the tear and dull the smart.

You will know that you have played your part;

Yours shall be the love that never dies:

You, with Heaven’s peace within your heart,

You, with God’s own glory in your eyes.

Funeral poems for a father

There are several poems that work well for a departed father, commemorating their life and all that they meant to you.

Dad

We’ll always remember

that special smile,

that caring heart,

that warm embrace,

you always gave us.

You being there

for Mom and us,

through good and bad times,

no matter what.

We’ll always remember

you Dad because

they’ll never be another one

to replace you in our hearts,

and the love we will always

have for you.

To My Father, Georgia Harkness

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 it’s mark on me. Its work stands fast”.

And so it lives. Such life no bonds can hold –

This giant pine, magnificent and old.

Moments Before, Kelly Horn

Moments before our walk that afternoon,

I realized the path ended too soon.

Not long enough to hold his hand,

this amazing person, this loving man.

Not long enough to engage his eyes

and remember his always brimming with pride.

Not long enough to stand by his side,

as he was by mine after every rough tide.

Not long enough to laugh with him still,

after every bad joke,

after every tough hill.

Not long enough to walk with this man,

who has taught me to be the person I am.

Not long enough as we walked by his wife,

to thank them both for my wonderful life.

In all the walks I’ve taken in my life,

first as a girl and now as a wife,

I’ll remember that walk I took with my father

and always wish it could have been longer.

You Were There

You were there when we took our first steps,

And went unsteadily across the floor.

You pushed and prodded: encouraged and guided,

Until our steps took us out the door…

You worry now “Are they ok?”

Is there more you could have done?

As we walk the paths of our unknown

You wonder “Where have my children gone?”

Where we are is where you have led us,

With your special love you showed us a way,

To believe in ourselves and the decisions we make.

Taking on the challenge of life day-to-day.

And where we go you can be sure,

In spirit you shall never be alone.

For where you are is what matters most to us,

Because to us that will always be home…

Funeral poems for a child

Many funeral poems for a child are especially heartfelt and tender, and there is a large selection of different poems to read through. Often you will know immediately if a poem is right or not, and whether it is fitting for the funeral and for the child.

The Way I Feel

They say there is a reason,

They say that time will heal,

But neither time nor reason,

Will change the way I feel,

No-one knows the heartache,

That lies behind my smile,

No-one knows how many times,

I have broken down and cried,

I want to tell you something,

So there won’t be any doubt,

You’re so wonderful to think of,

But so hard to be without.

Upon A Child That Died, Robert Herrick

Here she lies, a pretty bud,

Lately made of flesh and blood:

Who as soon fell fast asleep

As her little eyes did peep.

Give her strewing’s, but not stir

The earth that lightly covers her.

A Butterfly Lights Beside Us

A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam, and for a

brief moment its glory and beauty belong to our world:

but then it flies again. And though we wish it could

have stayed, we feel so lucky to have seen it.

Think of Me

When you’re feeling sad or a little blue,

Look around and you’ll see I’m here with you

I’m the bird who soars so high above

I’m the one who filled your heart with love

Untitled

The mention of my child’s name

May bring tears to my eyes,

But it never fails to bring

Music to my ears.

Let me hear the beautiful music of his name

It soothes my broken heart

And sings to my soul.

Fingerprints, by Tom Krause

Your fingerprints are on my heart.

Fingerprints that teach me about caring.

Fingerprints that teach me about love.

Fingerprints that teach me about courage.

Fingerprints that teach me about hope.

Fingerprints that bring me closer to my loved ones.

Fingerprints that bring me closer to myself.

In the time I cared for you my whole life changed —

never to be the same again

All this from tiny fingerprints that touch my heart.

You will live in my heart forever – never to be forgotten.

I will always love you.

You are my child.

 

Writing your own funeral poem

After reading these poems, you may feel inspired to pen your own. If so, it often helps to start by thinking about a central theme, such as love, life, loss, the afterlife, grief. Next, you should think about what message you’d like to communicate. Jot down a few notes. Once you start writing, you’ll find that the words start to flow. Let the poem take shape, without worrying too much about structure and rhyme. You can return to it later and edit however you wish, but right now just start by getting something down on paper.

As you may have noticed reading the above poems, they don’t all have the same rhyme, rhythm or structure. You don’t need to use any of these things to write a good funeral poem, but if you’re stuck for ideas it can help to write in rhyming couplets. This is where the last word of two lines next to each other rhyme, such as in W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and my Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

Writing your own poem for a funeral service or wake means you can make it as personal as you like. Draw on your memories of your loved one, their habits, personality traits; anything that comes to mind when you think about them. A personal poem about your loved one can be very touching. It’s likely to make your friends and family laugh and cry, and most of all, remember.

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