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Top 15 Funeral Poems

When putting together a funeral program, it’s common to include a funeral poem or other reading. This may be something you include as part of a eulogy or separately as its own reading.

Many people find that funeral poetry helps them express emotions that they have difficulty expressing on their own. When choosing a poem for a funeral, memorial service or celebration of life, you don’t need to limit yourself to poems explicitly written about death or for funerals; any poem that speaks to you and feels appropriate is fine.

Here, we’ve pulled together a list of 15 funeral poems that others have used, in order to help inspire you. Even if you’re not planning a funeral or planning to speak at a funeral, these poems can also be a useful resource when mourning someone you’ve lost or can serve as condolence poems when writing a note of sympathy. We believe all of these popular funeral poems are in the public domain.

You may also want to consider creating a free memorial website, where you and others can share photos, stories, funeral details, an obituary and more, in addition to poems.

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15. “Alive” by Winifred Mary Letts

Born in England in 1882, Winifred Letts started her writing career as a playwright and then novelist. She published her first poetry collection in 1913 at the age of 31. She also trained as a masseuse and and worked in army camps in Manchester during World War I, inspiring some of her poetry.

“Alive” is commonly chosen for funerals because of its emphasis on appreciating life as a way to honor the dead (and then appreciating death as a way to rejoin them).

Here is the funeral poem:

Because you live, though out of sight and reach,
I will, so help me God, live bravely too,
Taking the road with laughter and gay speech,
Alert, intent to give life all its due.
I will delight my soul with many things,
The humours of the street and books and plays,
Great rocks and waves winnowed by seagulls’ wings,
Star-jewelled Winter nights, gold harvest days.

I will for your sake praise what I have missed,
The sweet content of long-united lives,
The sunrise joy of lovers who have kissed,
Children with flower-faces, happy wives.
And last I will praise Death who gives anew
Brave life adventurous and love—and you.



14. “Dead” by Winifred Mary Letts

In contrast to her poem, “Alive,” which written in the same year, “Dead” focuses on the shock of losing someone, something that many people at a funeral or memorial service can relate to.

Here is the funeral poem:

In misty cerements they wrapped the word
My heart had feared so long: dead... dead... I heard
But marvelled they could think the thing was true
Because death cannot be for such as you.
So while they spoke kind words to suit my need
Of foolish idle things my heart took heed,
Your racquet and worn-out tennis shoe,
Your pipe upon the mantel,—then a bird
Upon the wind-tossed larch began to sing
And I remembered how one day in Spring
You found the wren’s nest in the wall and said
“Hush!... listen! I can hear them quarrelling...”
The tennis court is marked, the wrens are fled,
But you are dead, beloved, you are dead



13. “Warm Summer Sun” by Mark Twain

Written by Mark Twain in 1896, “Warm Summer Sun” tends to be specifically chosen for a graveside funeral service, as it conveys a sentiment of wishing the best for the gravesite of the deceased and ends with a goodbye.

Here is the funeral poem:

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.



12. “When I am dead, my dearest” by Christina Rossetti

Written by Victorian poet, Christina Rossetti, as just a teenager, “When I am dead, my dearest” (also known as “Song”) tells the reader that it doesn’t matter if she remembered or forgotten after her death, because she will not know. The poem has an agnostic bend, making it more common at non-religious funerals.

Here is the funeral poem:

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 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.



11. “Remember” by Christina Rossetti

A year after writing “When I Am Dead My Dearest,” Christina Rossetti penned “Remember.” While the title and first line of may seem contradictory to the message of “When I Am Dead My Dearest, the final message aligns the two. The last two lines of the poem, “Better by far you should forget and smile / Than that you should remember and be sad,” are commonly quoted.

Here is the funeral poem:

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 plann'd:
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.



10. “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman wrote “O Captain! My Captain!” following Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. The poem uses a metaphor to describe Lincoln leading the U.S. through the Civil War, only to die just as the country begins to celebrate. Unfortunately, many people can relate to the feeling of mourning that comes after losing someone just as things are starting to get better.

Here is the funeral poem:

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack,
the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; Rise up- for you the flag is flung- for
you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths- for you the shores
a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.



9. “To Those Whom I Love & Those Who Love Me” by Anonymous

Many people find the poem, “To Those Whom I Love & Those Who Love Me” comforting at funerals. It combines messages relating to the acceptance of death with the notions that the person is never really gone and that you will see them again. And while it encourages the reader to not be sad, it also acknowledges that it’s okay to grieve.

Here’s the funeral poem:

When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do,
You mustn't tie yourself to me with too many tears,
But be thankful we had so many good years.

I gave you my love, and you can only guess
How much you've given me in happiness.
I thank you for the love that you have shown,
But now it is time I traveled on alone.

So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It is only for a while that we must part,
So treasure the memories within your heart.

I won't be far away for life goes on.
And if you need me, call and I will come.

Though you can't see or touch me, I will be near.
And if you listen with your heart, you'll hear,
All my love around you soft and clear.

And then, when you come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and a 'Welcome Home'.



8. “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Frye

Originally written in 1932 on a brown paper shopping bag, “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” has long been a famous funeral poem, but Mary Frye didn’t reveal herself as the author until 1990s. (She had previously made copies of the poem and circulated them privately.)

Here is the funeral poem:

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 glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
(Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!)



7. “Remember Me - I Will Live Forever” by Robert N. Test

“Remember Me - I Will Live Forever” is a popular song at a memorial service or celebration of life for some who was an organ donor or a whole body donor. It focuses on how the person can continue to live on through others.

Here’s the funeral poem:

The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital; busily occupied with the living and the dying. At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.

When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine. And don't call this my deathbed. Let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.

Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby's face or love in the eyes of a woman.

Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.

Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.

Give my kidneys to the one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.

Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.

Explore every corner of my brain.

Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain against her window.

Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.

If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weakness and all prejudice against my fellow man.

Give my sins to the devil.

Give my soul to God.

If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.



6. “Walking with Grief” by Anonymous (A Celtic Prayer)

While “Walking with Grief” is a Celtic prayer, its message resonates with a much broader audience, making it a popular funeral reading. It speaks to the community of grieving people, reminding them that grief isn’t something that should be rushed through or pushed aside.

Do not hurry
As you walk with grief;
It does not help the journey

Walk slowly,
Pausing often:
Do not hurry
As you walk with grief

Be not disturbed
By memories that come unbidden.
Swiftly forgive;
And let Christ speak for you
Unspoken words.
Unfinished conversation
Will be resolved in Him.
Be not disturbed.

Be gentle with the one
Who walks with grief.
If it is you, be gentle with yourself.
Swiftly forgive;
Walk slowly,
Pausing often.

Take time, be gentle
As you walk with grief.



5. “I Am Standing Upon the Seashore” by Henry Van Dyke

In “I Am Standing Upon the Seashore,” Henry Van Dyke uses the metaphor of a ship moving beyond the horizon as a metaphor for death. He explains that the ship disappearing behind the horizon doesn’t mean that the ship is gone; it’s only gone from the perspective of the person on the shore watching it. To someone on the other side, the ship is appearing for the first time.

Here’s the funeral poem:

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 her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!"

"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 she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout;
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying.



4. “Those We Love” by Anonymous

This short poem is both impactful and easy to quote in a eulogy, funeral program or condolence note.

Here’s the funeral poem:

Those we love don't go away;
They walk beside us every day.

Unseen, unheard but always near.
Sill loved, still missed, and very dear.

Wishing us hope in the midst of sorrow,
Offering comfort in the midst of pain, both today and tomorrow.



3. Psalm 23

Psalm 23, also known as “The Lord is my Shepherd” comes from the Book of Psalms and is one of the most common reading at Christian funerals. It emphasizes the point that the Lord guides us into death and gives us the opportunity to spend eternity in the house of the Lord.

Here is the psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.



2. “All is Well” by Henry Scott Holland

Many people find “All is Well” to be a comforting funeral poem, as the message focuses on how love and relationships continue to live on after death, just as they do when two people are physically separated.

Here’s the funeral poem:

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped 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 which you always used
Put no difference in 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 shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It it the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
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.



1. “Remember Me” by Margaret Mead

While Margaret Mead was known more for her work in cultural anthropology than for her poetry, “Remember Me has become a common funeral poem, as it provides a notion of togetherness, even after someone has passed.

Here’s the funeral poem:

To the living, I am gone,
To the sorrowful, I will never return,
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.

I cannot speak, but I can listen.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore gazing at a beautiful sea,
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity,
Remember me.

Remember me in your heart:
Your thoughts, and your memories,
Of the times we loved,
The times we cried,
The times we fought,
The times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never have gone.


Inspired by these poems? Consider making a free memorial website for someone:

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January 2019
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