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Featured FAQ: How Do I Choose Readings for a Funeral?

February 15, 2017

Readings at a funeral are meant to bring comfort to the mourners and help loved ones cope with the reality of death, while celebrating the life of the deceased and capturing his or her unique personality and outlook on life.  

46811577 - catholic priest reading bible in churchSelections can come from a variety of sources, including poetry, books, famous quotes, song lyrics, movies, biblical and religious texts, and even original writings and poetry. There are many wonderful readings and poems that are commonly chosen for a funeral or memorial service, but it is the more personal choices that makes the service the most meaningful to those who knew and loved the person being memorialized. Choosing readings that were special to the deceased, such as quotes from a favorite book or movie or lyrics of a beloved song can help communicate the personality of your loved one.

A funeral or memorial service typically uses between two to four readings throughout the ceremony. Funeral and memorial readings can also be used in printed memorial materials, such as funeral programs, funeral or memorial prayer cards, and acknowledgement cards.

Poems appropriate for a funeral

It can be hard to put your feelings into words to express your grief and honor your loved one. There have been many sensitive souls throughout the ages who have been gifted with the power of language to express the nearly inexpressible through poetry, and their poems can often provide the grace and meaning you need.

In Medieval Spain, Yehuda HaLevi wrote a poem, “Tis a Fearful Thing,” that expresses the pain of loss, the fragility of life, and the power of love. “The Peace of Wild Things” by American poet Wendell Berry describes the ability of nature to provide solace.

Poetry from the funeral services of celebrities and other famous people can be a source of inspiration. One of the most popular poems for a funeral, “Do not stand at my grave and weep” by Mary Frye was read at the funeral of Nicole Brown Simpson. Two poems were read at Princess Diana’s funeral by her sisters, including “Turn Again To Life” by Mary Lee Hall and “For Katrina’s Sun Dial” by Henry van Dyke.

A few other poems commonly used for a funeral or memorial include, “Remember Me” by Christina Rosetti; “Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne, and “Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For an extensive list of poems appropriate for a funeral, visit this alphabetical listing of the most beloved poems and readings for funerals from Lasting Post.

If you have searched the poetic canon of funeral writings and still cannot find the perfect words to memorialize your loved one, you can commission a custom funeral poem to capture your loved one’s spirit. Creative Funeral Ideas will write a one-of-a-kind custom funeral poem that is completely original and embodies what made your loved one so special.

Religious Readings

If the funeral or memorial is religious in nature, there are many appropriate readings from biblical texts and other religious writings. Religious services often have prescribed moments for prayers and scriptural readings with a range of traditional selections, so make sure to go over your religious selections with family and clergy to make sure it is appropriate for the traditions of your community.

Some traditional prayers, psalms and religious readings include, Psalms 23; Romans 8:14-23; The Lord’s Prayer; The Serenity Prayer; and I Corinthians 15:51-57. For more inspiration, take a look at this list of funeral prayers and scriptural verses.

Additional Funeral Readings

Secular readings for a funeral can be garnered from a variety of sources, including songs, movies, books, television and original stories – the closer the source is to your loved one’s life, the better to bring meaning to the service. Use an excerpt from your loved one’s favorite book or song; find a quote from his or her favorite movie or television show or use something that you or your loved one wrote, such as an original poem, letter or email.

The classics are a good place to look for funeral readings. Shakespeare had many observations on the nature of life and death. Take a look at these quotes on grief, loss and death from William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.

Song lyrics can be powerful readings for a funeral or memorial service as well, as long as the song has meaning to you or your loved one. Songs such as “In My Life” by The Beatles or even Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” can express your loved one’s personality and philosophy of life.

Whether a poem, prayer or except, a reading can be a powerful expression of your respect and love for the departed, as well as your grief at your loved one’s passing. It can honor the memory of your loved one and help those left behind cope with their loss.

To speak to one of our knowledgeable funeral directors for help in choosing readings for your own service or for the funeral of a loved one, please contact us at any of our locations or call our main office at 1-800-Keohane (800-536-4263).

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