Finding the right words to honor a loved one who’s passed can be difficult. There's a lot to say, but how do you condense a lifetime into a few words?
That’s where poems come in. Poems for memorial services and funerals can help you express your emotions and feelings. Choosing the right one that feels perfect for you — and will serve as a lasting memorial to your loved one — is very important.
Here is a list of 21 of our favourite poems for memorial services and funerals, including some classics that have been around for many years, as well as some that are a little more unsual. Each of these poems is appropriate for both memorial ceremonies and funeral readings, and all have a strong message to them.
1. Afterglow, by Anonymous
“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.”
“Afterglow” speaks from the heart. It’s beautiful, has meaning and is simple, yet emotional. It’s a short poem that is perfect for a memorial service or can even be added to your will as a great way for your loved ones to remember you.
2. Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care, by Anonymous
“Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He'd hope that you could carry on the way you always do.
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.”
If you’re looking for a poem that will light up the faces of your guests at a funeral or memorial, this is it. “Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care” is a poem that captures all the emotions and feelings you go through when you lose someone close.
3. The Dash Poem, by Linda Ellis
“I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spent our dash.
So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile…remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.”
The Dash Poem has become popular among families as it expresses that it’s not the length of a life that matters, but how it is lived. It’s a longer poem, but also has a lot of meaning to it. This work is a popular one that is a great option to help you through a time of grief and to encourage you to live your life on your terms and to the fullest capacity.
4. 'Tis Better To Have Loved and Lost, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Then never to have loved at all.”
The right words may be hard to find when you want to say goodbye. “‘Tis Better To Have Loved and Lost” is a poem that can help sum up your feelings towards your loved one once they’re gone. It’s short but has a strong and meaningful message behind it.
5. If I should go tomorrow, by Anonymous
“If I should go tomorrow
It would never be goodbye,
For I have left my heart with you,
So don't you ever cry.
The love that's deep within me,
Shall reach you from the stars,
You'll feel it from the heavens,
And it will heal the scars.”
Whether you’re looking for a special poem to be read at your funeral, or your loved ones are searching for the ideal words to guide them through the hard times ahead, this poem is a great choice. It explains that even if we go tomorrow, it’s never going to be a final goodbye and that love will always be with you no matter what.
6. If I Should Die Before the Rest of you, by Joyce Grenfell
“If I should die 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.”
Life goes on after one passes away, but you’ll never stop thinking about them nor let them slip out of your memories. Joyce Grenfell explains in this poem that even though your loved one has left the earth, life keeps going no matter what.
7. Music, When Soft Voices Die, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
“Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory —
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the belovèd's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.”
If you are struggling to find the right words for a memorial reading, a condolence card or a eulogy, “Music, When Soft Voices Die” can help you express those words. This poem offers an elegant memorial to those who have passed away. Its touching words, strong reflection on death and rhyming sentences make it a perfect funeral poem.
8. Love is Immortal, by Anonymous
“Love is pure energy and
No matter how hard you try,
You can never kill love
Because pure energy can’t die
The feeling of love can fade,
And the body can cease to give,
But the energy created by love
Is immortal and continues
The relevance of poetry such as “Love is Immortal” in a funeral service or a memorial service is significant. This is a poem that brings comfort and solace in times of grief and sorrow. The main focus is on how love never dies and instead is immortal.
9. Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, byDylan Thomas
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
A popular choice when it comes to what to read at a funeral or a memorial service, these words of poet Dylan Thomas remind us to live our life to the fullest. Although it is a longer poem, it has a lot of meaning which is what you want to celebrate your loved ones when they leave the Earth.
10. Warm Summer Sun, by Walt Whitman
“Warm summer sun, shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind blows softly here.
Green sod above, lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.”
This poem is perfect for a Summer funeral and is both poignant and to the point. Warm Summer Sun tends to be used specifically for a graveside funeral service, as it reflects on wishing the best for the gravesite of the deceased and ends with a goodbye.
11. Alive, by Winifred Mary Letts
“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 it’s 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.”
“Alive” is commonly chosen for funerals because of its emphasis on appreciating life as a way to honour the dead and then appreciating death as a way to rejoin them.
12. “Remember Me — I Will Live Forever”, by Robert N. Test
“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.”
“Remember Me — I Will Live Forever” has a unique meaning to it. It's the ideal poem for celebrating the life of someone who was an organ donor or a whole body donor. It focuses on how the person can continue to live on through others once they’re gone.
13. May Time Soften Your Pain, by Anonymous
“In times of darkness, love sees…
In times of silence, love hearts...
In times of doubt, love hopes…
In times of sorrow, love heals...
And in all times, love remembers.
May time soften the pain
Until all that remains
Is the warmth of the memories
And the love.”
“May Time Soften Your Pain” is a funeral poem which brings remembrance of the emotions experienced while the person was living. It reflects on how, over time, the pain you feel when someone leaves the Earth slowly fades and is replaced with the memories and love of the one you lost. It’s the perfect poem for any funeral.
14. Don't Cry for Me, by Anonymous
“Don't cry for me now I have died, for I'm still here I'm by your side,
My body's gone but my soul is here, please don't shed another tear,
I am still here. I'm all around, only my body lies in the ground.
I am the snowflake that kisses your nose,
I am the frost that nips your toes.
I am the sun, bringing you light,
I am the star, shining so bright.
I am the rain, refreshing the earth,
I am the laughter, I am the mirth.
I am the bird, up in the sky,
I am the cloud that's drifting by.
I am the thoughts, inside your head,
While I'm still there, I can't be dead.”
Poems like “Don’t Cry for Me” bring memories of joys shared, love embraced and time spent together. A funeral poem is a way of expressing your love for the person who has passed on into eternity. This is a lovely poem with which to end a memorial service.
15. The Life That I Have Poem, by Leo Marks
“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.”
This short funeral poem is often used with spouses, but it is fitting for any of your loved ones. A very special poem that depicts both love before and after death and how once you’re gone, your love is still eternal.
16. Crossing the Bar, by Lord Alfred Tennyson
“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.”
This funeral poem can be used for anyone but it is particularly suited for male loved ones, especially fathers. It embraces death as the beginning of a journey, instead of the end.
17. Sonnets Are Full of Love, by Christina Rossetti
“Sonnets are full of love, and this my time
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honoured name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.”
Written as a funeral poem from a daughter to her mother, “Sonnets Are Full of Love” celebrates the ever-giving love of the mother for her child. The poet, Christina Rossetti, speaks of how her mother was her “first love”, which is the most enduring example of that emotion. For funerals or memorials for a mother, this poem is the perfect match.
18. 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.”
Losing your mother is one of the most difficult experiences you will face in your life. If you are celebrating your mother’s life, this is the perfect poem to honour her in just the way you want. This poem expresses both the sadness of losing the woman you hold dearest and the gratitude for her existence.
19. Remember Me, by Christina Rossetti
“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 turn to stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel them 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
Then you should remember and be sad.”
Finding the right words to describe how you feel about your loved one passing away and the life they led can be a tough task. “Remember Me” is a poem that can help you express how you feel. This poem echoes the sentiments of many by encouraging loved ones left behind to remember, but not grieve too deeply.
20. She Walks in Beauty, by Lord Byron
“One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.”
A very popular funeral poem, “She Walks in Beauty” is one that has a loving tone, perfect for when you want to bring some light into the service. It sums up the love you have for your loved ones
21. There is No Light Without a Dawning, by Helen Steiner Rice
“No winter without a spring
And beyond the dark horizon
Our hearts will once more sing …
For those who leave us for a while
Have only gone away
Out of a restless, careworn world
Into a brighter day.”
This short poem is often used for funerals and memorial services because it reminds guests that there is something bright beyond death.
If you’re planning a funeral or memorial service and don’t know what to say, these poems are sure to inspire you and will help you remember your loved ones for the great person they were.