Are you looking for inspiration to choose a funeral reading that is as special and unique as your loved one? Traditional funeral readings and funeral poems aren’t always in sync with the personality and spirit of the person you want to honor. While religious and other texts are often a wonderful source for comforting words in the face of grief and mourning, there are many other places to find meaningful words to share about your loved one at a funeral or memorial.
From song lyrics to movie lines and famous speeches, inspiration and consolation can be found in many mediums--including a variety of texts. Here are just a few examples of funeral readings sure to create a powerful emotional moment for grieving friends and family.
Personalizing a Funeral Reading with Philosophy
Philosophical texts are a great source for thoughtful, perspective-shifting readings. This lesser known reading by Lebanese-American writer and philosopher Kahlil Gibran offers comfort, plus a singular celebration of the human experience. It has a spirt of positivity and reassurance. Even though Gibran often rejected the title of “philosopher,” his uniquely positive, holistic take on the relationship between the human and the divine has unquestionably earned him the distinction.
The Prophet: On Death by Kahlil Gibran
“You would know the secret of death….
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one….
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim all your limbs, then you shall truly dance.”
Poetry and Non-Traditional Readings for a Funeral
It’s no surprise that poems can be a wonderful source of inspiration for readings. A beautiful poem creates a moment and distills emotion while allowing for openness and interpretation. The three examples below are non-traditional choices for funerals. They're written by three very different poets (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas and Maya Angelou). Depending on your loved one and the sentiments you want to express, you can also look to lesser known artists and different genres of poetry--even a haiku or a limerick!
How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”
Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage rage against the dying light.”
When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou
“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
Funeral Readings from Children’s Literature
Children’s literature is often infused with essential lessons about life and can be a wonderful choice to express the uniqueness of a beloved parent, spouse, or friend. Readings from children’s books are not just for kids. They speak to an eternal wonder and an emotional connection that works no matter the age of the person you are celebrating.
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you
because I liked you. After all, what’s life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we
die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
Funeral Service Readings from the Theater
Consider dialogue from a classic or favorite play as a source for readings. The excerpt below from Shakespeare offers nuggets of wisdom for those mourning a loved one. Choose a play that reflects the tone--whether somber or light--that you’d like to express.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
“For you, in my respect, are all the world.
Then how can it be said I am alone
When all the world is here to look on me?
Finding Ideas for Personalized Funeral Readings in Popular Movies
Yes, the below is another poem, but we first discovered it in that unforgettable scene in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. It is heartfelt, romantic, and poignant.
Funeral Blues by WH Auden
“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 forever, I was wrong.”
If you’re seeking inspiration to personalize a funeral with non-traditional readings, there are so many places to look. Movies, books, and even songs about death, dying and loss are great resources for lesser-known, unique funeral readings.
Share Your Inspiration
By the way, if you have a recommendation for a funeral reading that inspires you, we’d love to know about it. Send it to us as firstname.lastname@example.org or post it on Instagram with the hashtag #myfarewelling or tag us @myfarewelling and we may feature it on our feed.