Funeral poems and readings are a lovely way to involve family members, or friends of your loved one, in your ceremony. If you would prefer me to read them for you that is also absolutely fine. Again, these are not necessary to make your funeral ceremony personal and meaningful, it’s all about your choice. There are lots of lovely non-religious poems and readings, or you can ask your speakers to write their own.
Below are samples of readings you may expect to hear at a non-religious funeral.
“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth 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.
“Life Well Lived” Author Unknown
A life well lived is a precious gift,
of hope and strength and grace,
from someone who has made our world
a brighter, better place.
It’s filled with moments, sweet and sad
with smiles and sometimes tears,
with friendships formed and good times shared,
and laughter through the years.
A life well lived is a legacy,
of joy and pride and pleasure,
a living, lasting memory
our grateful heart’s will treasure.
“So many different lengths of time” by Brian Patten.
How long does a man live after all?
A thousand days or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man spend living or dying
and what do we mean when we say gone forever?
How long does a man live after all?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions –
then when it comes to us
the answer is so simple after all.
A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a man lives.
His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:
his children will carry the weight of his love.
One friend will carry his arguments,
another will hum his favourite tunes,
another will still share his terrors.
And the days will pass with baffled faces,
then the weeks, then the months,
then there will be a day when no question is asked,
and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach
and the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased
but will have ceased to be separated by death.
How long does a man live after all?
A man lives so may different lengths of time
“Dust in you must”
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed.
Ponder the difference between want and need.
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
With the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain
This day will not come round again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind
Old age will come, and it’s not kind.
And when you go, as go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust.
“Death Is Nothing at All” by Henry Scott-Holland
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.
Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of 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 that 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 an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?
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,
just round the corner.
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!
“I carry your heart with me ” by E.E. Cummings
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)
“Something Beautiful Remains” Author Unknown
The tide recedes but leaves behind
bright seashells on the sand.
The sun goes down, but gentle
warmth still lingers on the land.
The music stops, and yet it echoes
on in sweet refrains…..
For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.
A Quote from Winnie the Pooh
If ever there is a 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 are apart I’ll always be with you.
This piece was written 1500 years ago by the classical Sanskrit writer Kalidasa.
Look to this day for it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the realities
And truths of existence;
The joy of growth,
The splendour of action,
The glory of power.
For yesterday is but a memory,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived makes every
Yesterday a memory of happiness.
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
A Code Poem for theFrench Resistance
The life that I have,
Is all that I have,
And the life that I have,
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is Success?
To laugh often and love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children;
to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate the beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give one’s self;
to leave the world a bit better, whether by healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded.
You can shed tears
You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
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 him and only that he is gone,
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on;
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want:
smile, open your eyes, love 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 strings pulling at the heart and soul
The strong arms that held me up
When my own strength let me down.
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.
Epitaph to a Friend by Robert Burns
AN HONEST man here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest;
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 informed:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
After Glow by Helen Lowrie marshall
I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one.
I’d like to leave an after glow 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