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10 Poems & Passages for Secular Funeral or Memorial

Daniela Fortino
Daniela Fortino
March 13th 2024 - 8 minute read
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Inspirational secular poems and passages that can be read at a funeral or memorial for a loved one who was not religious.

Daniela Fortino

10 inspirational poems and passages for a non-religious funeral or memorial

Losing a loved one is difficult, and finding the right words to say goodbye can be even more challenging. References to religious passages and scripture are common in eulogies (tips on writing a eulogy here) and funeral services, but for those who do not have a religious affiliation, non-religious funeral readings can be a great way to pay tribute to a loved one. Below are 10 popular secular poems and passages for a non-religious funeral.

Death (If I Should Go) – Joyce Grenfell

This first poem suggestion is by Joyce Grenfell. Grenfell has written many poems on death, but this is one of the most widely known and used at funerals.

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.

Loving Memories (Your Gentle Face) – Unknown

This poem of unknown origin is another common funeral reading. It focuses on how the loved one will be missed but also honoured and cherished through memories.

Your gentle face and patient smile

With sadness we recall,

You had a kindly word for each

And died beloved by all.

The voice is mute and stilled the heart

That loved us well and true,

Ah, bitter was the trial to part

From one so good as you.

You are not forgotten loved one

Nor will you ever be,

As long as life and memory last

We will remember thee.

We miss you now, our hearts are sore,

As time goes by we miss you more.

Your loving smile, your gentle face,

No one can fill your empty place.

Four Candles - Unknown

This passage is great for those who would like to add a physical element to their eulogy. It outlines how many candles to light and what each candle symbolizes. The candles can be lit by one individual or could be part of a group activity.

The first candle represents our grief.

The pain of losing you is intense.

It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

This second candle represents our courage.

To confront our sorrow,

To comfort each other,

To change our lives.

This third candle we light in your memory.

For the times we laughed,

The times we cried,

The times we were angry with each other,

The silly things you did,

The caring and joy you gave us.

This fourth candle we light for our love.

We light this candle so that your light will always shine.

As we enter this holiday season and share this night of remembrance

with our family and friends.

We cherish the special place in our hearts

that will always be reserved for you.

We thank you for the gift

your living brought to each of us.

We love you.

We remember you.

Remember Me – Unknown

This poem has a lovely uplifting tone. It reminds listeners that their loved one is at peace now and that, even though they are not physically here anymore, they will continue to live on in their memories.

To the living, I am gone

To the sorrowful, I will never return

To the angry, I was cheated

But to the happy, I am at peace

And to the faithful, I have never left

I cannot speak, but I can listen

I cannot be seen, but I can be heard

So as you stand upon the shore

Gazing at the beautiful sea, remember me

As you look in awe at a mighty forest

And in its grand majesty, remember me

Remember me in your hearts,

In your thoughts, and the memories of the

Times we loved, the times we cried,

the battle we fought and the times we laughed

For if you always think of me,

I will never have gone.

Intimations of immortality – William Wordsworth

This poem reminds loved ones that although death seems permanent, it does not have to end; the deceased's memories and legacy remain.

What though the radiance which was once so bright~

Be now forever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind.

Death Is Nothing At All - Canon Henry Scott-Holland

This poem also serves to remind mourners that death does not need to be an end. You can still talk to deceased loved ones, think about them, and reminisce about memories; death does not change their place in your life.

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!

Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep – Mary Elizabeth Frye

This powerful poem focuses on the belief that our loved ones are not confined to their final resting place; they can remain with us and around us through our entire lives.

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 the 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 star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry.

I am not there; I did not die.

One At Rest – Unknown

This poem comes from the perspective of the deceased. It thanks loved ones for their roles in the deceased's life and reminds them not to dwell in a state of grief because they are at peace now.

Think of me as one at rest,

for me you should not weep

I have no pain no troubled thoughts

for I am just asleep

The living thinking me that was,

is now forever still

And life goes on without me now,

as time forever will.

If your heart is heavy now

because I’ve gone away

Dwell not long upon it friend

For none of us can stay

Those of you who liked me,

I sincerely thank you all

And those of you who loved me,

I thank you most of all.

And in my fleeting lifespan,

as time went rushing by

I found some time to hesitate,

to laugh, to love, to cry

Matters it now if time began

If time will ever cease?

I was here, I used it all,

and now I am at peace.

Dear Lovely Death – Langston Hughes

This poem tries to put a more positive spin on death. It views death as a form of change instead of viewing it as a final and permanent part of life.

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.

The Dash – Linda Ellis

This poem focuses more on the significance of the time before death. It is meant to encourage listeners to embrace life and live each day to the fullest.

I read of a man who stood to speak

At the funeral of a friend

He referred to the dates on the tombstone

From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of birth

And spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time

That they spent alive on earth.

And now only those who loved them

Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own,

The cars…the house…the cash.

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.

Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough

To consider what’s true and real

And always try to understand

The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger

And show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives

Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect

And more often wear a smile,

Remembering this special dash

Might only last a little while

So, when your eulogy is being read

With your life’s actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say

About how you spent YOUR dash?

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