Sometimes reading poetry, or passages from gifted writers about loss and grief can be a great comfort after a death. It can remind us that we are not alone – that others have felt what we feel. Reading funeral poems gives us the chance to connect with someone else’s beautiful words, and can be really touching.
In preparing a funeral or a memorial service, finding a poem that matches our feelings might be a great way to express our most difficult emotions.
At Tomorrow, we create truly personal memorials. We believe that finding the most authentic way to celebrate a life is important. The process itself can also be healing and help get you started on the difficult job of saying goodbye.
We have compiled various poems and readings about death, impermanence, love and loss. Included, are a mixture of contemporary funeral poems and readings that are a bit different to the norm.
An extract from “Winnie The Pooh” by A.A. Milne
If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember.
You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.
‘Overwhelmed’ by Marjorie Pizer
When I feel overwhelmed by destruction,
Let me go down to the sea.
Let me sit by the immeasurable ocean
And watch the surf
Beating in and running out all day and all night
Let me sit by the sea
And have the bitter sea winds
Slap my cheeks with their cold, damp hands
Until I am sensible again.
Let me look at the sky at night
And let the stars tell me
Of limitless horizons and unknown universes
Until I am grown calm and strong once more.
‘Impermanence’ by Nagual
Love life, love the world,
for it is all you have.
Love the stars, and the people,
and the breeze and the rain,
and the reflection
of the lights on the water.
Love because you exist.
Love because you can read this,
because you live in a time
that will one day be thought of
as romantic and golden.
Love because you won’t be forever.
everything is impermanent,
because this day will end,
be visited again.
Love because all we have is enough,
nothing we can imagine
can match it.
Love because there are others
you share the world with,
who love too.
Love the night,
the shadow of the trees by the water.
Love the imminence of dawn,
and of things someday gone.
Love the light of a candle
and the warmth
of the earnest conversation lit by it.
Love the joy of sharing the world
with other beings as troubled
but as sensitive to beauty and love
as you are.
Love nature’s gentle rattle,
and its tempestuous outbreaks.
Love because you are all
you will ever be,
and life is immense
and beautiful, even in its darkness, and it is yours.
‘Irish Funeral Prayer’ by Henry Scott Holland
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which 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 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 effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
All is well.
Nothing is hurt; 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!
‘Remember Me’ by David Harkins
Do not shed tears when I have gone but smile instead because I have lived.
Do not shut your eyes and pray to God that I’ll come back but open your eyes and see all that I have left behind.
I know your heart will be empty because you cannot see me but still I want you to be full of the love we shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live only for yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of what happened between us yesterday.
You can remember me and grieve that I have gone or you can cherish my memory and let it live on.
You can cry and lose yourself, become distraught and turn your back on the world or you can do what I want – smile, wipe away the tears, learn to love again and go on.
‘Farewell My Friends’ by Gitanjali Ghei
It was beautiful as long as it lasted, the journey of my life, I have no regrets whatsoever, save the pain I’ll leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care, and the heavy with sleep ever moist eyes, the smile in spite of a lump in the throat and the strings pulling at the heart and soul,
The strong arms that held me up when my own strength let me down, each morsel that I was fed with was full of love.
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.
‘Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep’ by Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand
By my grave, and weep.
I am not there,
I do not sleep—
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush,
I am the swift, up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight,
I am the day transcending night.
Do not stand
By my grave, and cry—
I am not there,
I did not die.
‘She Is Gone’ by David Harkins
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.
‘After Glow’ 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.
‘Funeral Blues’ by W. H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
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.
The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
‘Touched by an Angel’ by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
An extract from ‘No Matter What’ by Debi Gliori
Small said: “But what about when you’re dead and gone? Would you love me then? Does love go on?”
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright.
“Small, look at the stars – how they shine and glow. Yet some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies… love, like starlight, never dies”.
‘Goodluck Everyheart’ by Wuji Seshat
That dances on timelines
For a while, a short blink
Of an eye between cascades
That now watches life
As pure energy, watching
Stars die, reviving stars
In the impermanence of things
That runs on the lips of time
Laughing and playing
In the existence of routines
Death comes to each one
Like a sound, or the coming
Of a silent storm, it’s natural
To die, goodluck everyheart.