Non-religious funeral readings
Finding the words to say goodbye to a loved one when they pass away can be difficult. If you’re arranging a funeral for someone who didn’t have any religious beliefs, you may want to include a popular funeral poem or reading in the order of service. Non-religious funeral readings can help acknowledge the passing of a loved one and bring comfort to those in attendance.
Here are 11 popular readings for a non-religious funeral:
“When I Am Dead, My Dearest” by Christina Rossetti
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
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.
“The Life That I Have” 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.
“Death (If I Should Go)” by Joyce Grenfell
If I should go 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.
“Roads Go Ever On” by J. R. R. Tolkien
The following passage is taken from “The Lord of the Rings”, written by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.
Roads go ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
“Death Sets a Thing Significant” by Emily Dickinson
Death sets a thing significant
The eye had hurried by,
Except a perished creature
Entreat us tenderly
To ponder little workmanships
In crayon or in wool,
With "This was last her fingers did,"
The thimble weighed too heavy,
The stitches stopped themselves,
And then 't was put among the dust
Upon the closet shelves.
A book I have, a friend gave,
Whose pencil, here and there,
Had notched the place that pleased him,--
At rest his fingers are.
Now, when I read, I read not,
For interrupting tears
Obliterate the etchings
Too costly for repairs.
“Play Jolly Music At My Funeral” by Richard Greene
I’ve taken in recent years to thinking about my funeral
and have decided to make one paramount request:
play jolly music at that ritual.
What good does it do to heap on dirges
or other mournful melodies?
I won’t be there to be gratified by the grieving
and if I could tune in
I’d be happier to see those present have some relief.
Dixieland would be nice.
Joplin would be fine.
Something by Fats Waller would certainly do.
Those early jazzmen knew what they were up to
when they set about making funeral marches swing.
So swing me away, please, with a rousing tune.
“Dear Lovely Death” by Langston Hughes
Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing—
Never to kill—
Only to change
Into some other thing
This suffering flesh,
To make it either more or less,
But not again the same—
Dear lovely Death,
Change is thy other name.
“Requiem” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me die.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
“Farewell, Sweet Dust” by Elinor Wylie
Now I have lost you, I must scatter
All of you on the air henceforth;
Not that to me it can ever matter
Buy it's only fair to the rest of the earth.
Now especially, when it is winter
And the sun's not half so bright as he was,
Who wouldn't be glad to find a splinter
That once was you in the frozen grass?
Snowflakes, too, will be softer feathered,
Clouds, perhaps, will be whiter plumed;
Rain, whose brilliance you caught and gathered,
Purer silver have reassumed.
Farewell, sweet dust; I never was a miser:
Once, for a minute, I made you mine:
Now you are gone, I am none the wiser
But the leaves of the willow are as bright as wine.
“Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
“Funeral Blues” by W. H. Auden
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 airplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message "He is Dead",
Put Crepe 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 forever: 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.
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