Poems for a Funeral

Welcome to the first in a new year series of workshops with Arthur Rank Hospice Charity, aimed at members of the Living Well community!

Today’s session explores poetry for a funeral or memorial service. What is it that we want to convey to those we have left behind? How can a choice of a poem or reading help to mark a life well lived, provide comfort or consolation, or give directions and support to our loved ones? This morning we will

  • Listen to some different popular and less common poems and song lyrics.
  • Talk reflectively together, share our perspectives and favourites, and think about the kinds of poetry which speak to us.

Today’s poetry

Most popular funeral poems

1 – Canon Henry Scott-Holland, ‘Death is Nothing At All’ (c.1910)

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away 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 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 we always 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 effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
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.

Nothing is past; 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!

2 – Mary Elizabeth Frye (disputed authorship), ‘Immortality / Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep’ (1934)

Do not stand
By my grave, and weep.
I am not there,
I do not sleep—
I am the thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle, autumn rain.
As you awake with morning’s hush,
I am the swift, up-flinging rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight,
I am the day transcending night.
Do not stand
By my grave, and cry—
I am not there,
I did not die.

3 – W. H. Auden, ‘Funeral Blues’ (1938)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

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 for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

Love poems for those we leave behind

Robert Burns, ‘A Red, Red Rose’ (c.1794)

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
   That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
   That’s sweetly played in tune.
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
   So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
   Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear,
   While the sands o’ life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
   And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.

Lennon and McCartney, ‘In My Life’ (1965)

There are places I’ll remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

In my life I love you more

 


If you like these…

Popular funeral songs:

Robbie Williams, Angels
The Beatles, Let It Be
Frank Sinatra, My Way
Ronnie Hazlehurst (composer), Last of the Summer Wine

Alternatives on the theme of Consolation and Advice:

Helen Steiner Rice, No Night Without a Dawning
John O’Donohue, On the Death of the Beloved
Christina Rossetti, Let Me Go
Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb

Alternatives on the theme of My Life:

Gillian Clarke, My Box
Jenny Joseph, Warning
William Henry Channing, My Symphony

Alternatives on the theme of Love, Grief and Bereavement:

Queen, Love of My Life
Elizabeth Bishop, The Art of Losing
Rabindranath Tagore, Peace My Heart

You may like to have a look at Words for our selection of poetry and prose on the theme of death and dying.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and learn from your insights and experiences. Feel free to speak to the nursing team or get in touch with us directly cambridgegooddeath@gmail.com,

 

Posted: 25th January 2022