In Brief

Funeral poems: six uplifting readings about death

Find the words that strike a balance between commemoration and celebration of a life lived

Funerals are a time of sadness and loss, but they can also be a chance for reflection and a celebration of life.

If you are struggling to explain how much a friend, family member or loved one meant, a poem or reading can help you find the right words.

Choosing one that strikes the right balance can be daunting, however. Here are six uplifting suggestions.

Remember by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

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 dayYou tell me of our future that you plann’d:Only remember me; you understandIt will be late to counsel then or pray.Yet if you should forget me for a whileAnd afterwards remember, do not grieve:For if the darkness and corruption leaveA vestige of the thoughts that once I had,Better by far you should forget and smileThan that you should remember and be sad.

From Ode on Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

What though the radiance which was once so brightBe now forever taken from my sight,Though nothing can bring back the hourOf splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;We will grieve not, rather findStrength in what remains behind.

Not, how did he die, but how did he live? Anonymous

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 worthOf 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?

Death Is Nothing At All by Canon Henry Scott-Holland (1847-1918)

Death is nothing at allI have only slipped away into the next roomI am I and you are youWhatever we were to each otherThat we are stillCall me by my old familiar nameSpeak to me in the easy way you always usedPut no difference into your toneWear no forced air of solemnity or sorrowLaugh as we always laughedAt the little jokes we always enjoyed togetherPlay, smile, think of me, pray for meLet my name be ever the household word that it always wasLet it be spoken without effortWithout the ghost of a shadow in itLife means all that it ever meantIt is the same as it ever wasThere is absolute unbroken continuityWhat is death but a negligible accident?Why should I be out of mindBecause I am out of sight?I am waiting for you for an intervalSomewhere very nearJust around the cornerAll is well.Nothing is past; nothing is lostOne brief moment and all will be as it was beforeHow we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

What is dying? by Bishop Brent (1862–1927)

A ship sails and I stand watchingtill she fades on the horizon,and someone at my sidesays, “She is gone”.Gone where? Gone from my sight,that is all; she is just aslarge as when I saw her...the diminished size and totalloss of sight is in me, not in her,and just at the momentwhen someone at my sidesays “she is gone”, there are otherswho are watching her coming,and other voices take up the glad shout,“there she comes!” ...and that is dying.

Epitaph On A Friend by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

An honest man here lies at rest,The friend of man, the friend of truth,The friend of age, and guide of youth:Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,Few heads with knowledge so inform’d;If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;If there is none, he made the best of this.

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