Poems and Readings for a Funeral Service

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During funeral services at funeral homes, there will be a portion of the service that is devoted to readings that express longing, loss, love, and respect for our loved one as well as readings that were significant to them and their lives.

You may choose to have a mixture of readings – prose, poetry, and scriptures – from spiritual and literary sources, or you may decide to have readings that are exclusively spiritual or exclusively literary. Most people have a combination of the two.

Knowing how to choose the readings you include may be the most difficult part, especially if your loved one was a voracious reader. You want to find just the right words to express your feelings about your loved one and to reveal what mattered most to them, in terms of their philosophy on life and their heart.

The key to selecting readings for a loved one is to strike the right tone. What you choose should be affectionate, moving, and respectful.

Here are some suggestions that may give you some ideas on how to make this a very memorable part of your loved one’s funeral service.

Spouses often turn to poets to express their loss. Christina Rossetti’s poem, “When I Am Dead, My Dearest,” is a poem that captures this: “When I am dead, my dearest,/Sing no sad songs for me;/Plant thou no roses at my head,/Nor shady cypress tree:/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.”

Others who participate in the readings portion may turn to prose to acknowledge that a loved one has died. A great passage is “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.”

Familiar scripture readings that provide hope and comfort are also often a part of this section of the funeral service. One such scripture is Romans 14:8: “If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Psalm 23, which is often included, says in part: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,/I will fear no evil;/For You are with me;/Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

If you need more guidance in choosing funeral readings for funerals at funeral homes, our empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.