21 Poems for Memorial Services and Funerals

It can be so hard to find the right words to honour a loved one.  There is so much to say, but how do you sum up a lifetime in just a few words.  These poems for memorial services may help you to express your feelings.  We hope you will find one which feels right for you and which will be a memorable tribute to your loved one.  

We include some well-known favourites which have stood the test of time, as well as some more unusual ones.  Consider how much time there is in the service and how many readings you wish to have.  We have included some short memorial poems as well as some longer ones.  These will be suitable for memorial services as well as funeral readings.  They are all mostly non-religious funeral poems but can be used as part of any service whether in a church or a secular ceremony.  

The poems on this page are suitable for any loved one.   If they mention a 'he' or 'she' you can always change that.  

We hope you find the one which works best for you and your family and friends on this sad occasion.  

1. Afterglow - Anon

I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one.

I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done.

I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways,

Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.

I'd like the tears of those who grieve, to dry before the sun;

Of happy memories that I leave when life is done.

Afterglow poem by Anon.  Suitable for funerals and memorial services

2.  Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care - Anon

Feel no guilt in laughter, he'd know how much you care.

Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share.

You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.

He'd hope that you could carry on the way you always do.

So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,

The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.

Let memories surround you, a word someone may say

Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,

That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,

And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.

For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart

And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.

3. Farewell - Anne Bronte (1820 - 1847)

Farewell to Thee! But not farewell

To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;

Within my heart they still shall dwell

And they shall cheer and comfort me.


Life seems more sweet that Thou didst live

And men more true that Thou wert one;

Nothing is lost that Thou didst give,

Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.

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4. 'Tis Better To Have Loved and Lost - Alfred Lord Tennyson

I hold it true, whate'er befall;

I feel it, when I sorrow most;

'Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.

5. If I should go tomorrow - Anon

If I should go tomorrow

It would never be goodbye,

For I have left my heart with you,

So don't you ever cry.

The love that's deep within me,

Shall reach you from the stars,

You'll feel it from the heavens,

And it will heal the scars.

Poem for a memorial service - If I should go tomorrow

6.  Of Death - Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931), From The Prophet

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

See also 'The Beauty of Death' by Kahlil Gibran 

7.  When I die I want your hands on my eyes - Pablo Neruda
(from the Spanish) 

When I die I want your hands on my eyes:

I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands

to pass their freshness over me one more time

to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.

I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,

I want for your ears to go on hearing the wind,

for you to smell the sea that we loved together

and for you to go on walking the sand where we walked.

I want for what I love to go on living

and as for you I loved you and sang you above everything,

for that, go on flowering, flowery one,

so that you reach all that my love orders for you,

so that my shadow passes through your hair, 

so that they know by this the reason for my song.

8.  Music, When Soft Voices Die - Percy Bysshe Shelley

Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory -

Odours, when sweet violets sicken,

Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,

Are heap'd for the belovèd's bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.  

9.  Idyll - Siegfried Sassoon

In the grey summer garden I shall find you

With day-break and the morning hills behind you.

There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings;

And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings.

Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep

Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:

And I shall know the sense of life re-born

From dreams into the mystery of morn

Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there

Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share

The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are

Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.

10.  From:  God of the Open Air - Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933)

These are the things I prize

And hold of dearest worth:

Light of the sapphire skies,

Peace of the silent hills,

Shelter of forests, comfort of the grass,

Music of birds, murmur of little rills,

Shadow of clouds that swiftly pass,

And, after showers,

The smell of flowers

And of the good brown earth,--

And best of all, along the way, friendship and mirth.

So let me keep

These treasures of the humble heart

In true possession, owning them by love;

And when at last I can no longer move

Among them freely, but must part

From the green fields and from the waters clear,

Let me not creep

Into some darkened room and hide

From all that makes the world so bright and dear;

But throw the windows wide

To welcome in the light;

And while I clasp a well-beloved hand,

Let me once more have sight

Of the deep sky and the far-smiling land,--

Then gently fall on sleep,

And breathe my body back to Nature's care,

My spirit out to thee, God of the open air. 

11.  If I be the First of us to Die - Nicholas Evans -
From The Smoke Jumper

If I be the first of us to die,

Let grief not blacken long your sky.

Be bold yet modest in your grieving.

There is a change but not a leaving.

For just as death is part of life,

The dead live on forever in the living.

And all the gathered riches of our journey, 

The moments shared, the mysteries explored,

The steady layering of intimacy stored,

The things that made us laugh or weep or sing,

The joy of sunlit snow or first unfurling of the spring,

The wordless language of look and touch,

The knowing,

Each giving and each taking,

These are not flowers that fade,

Nor trees that fall and crumble,

Nor are the stone,

For even stone cannot the wind and rain withstand

And mighty mountain peaks in time reduce to sand.

What we were, we are.

What we had, we have.

A conjoined past imperishably present.

So when you walk the wood where once we walked together

And scan in vain the dappled bank beside you for my shadow,

Or pause where we always did upon the hill to gaze across the land,

And spotting something, reach by habit for my hand,

And finding none, feel sorrow start to steal upon you, 

Be still.

Close your eyes.


Listen for my footfall in your heart.

I am not gone but merely walk within you.

12.  Farewell My Friends - Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

Farewell My Friends

It was beautiful

As long as it lasted

The journey of my life.

I have no regrets

Whatsoever said

The pain I’ll leave behind.

Those dear hearts

Who love and care...

And the strings pulling

At the heart and soul...

The strong arms

That held me up

When my own strength

Let me down.

Each morsel that I was

Fed with was full of love divine. 

At every turning of my life

I came across

Good friends,

Friends who stood by me

Even when the time raced me by.

Farewell, farewell

My friends

I smile and

Bid you goodbye.

No, shed no tears

For I need them not

All I need is your smile.

If you feel sad

Do think of me

For that’s what I’ll like.

When you live in the hearts

Of those you love

Remember then

You never die.

13.  May Time Soften Your Pain - Anon

In times of darkness, love sees…

In times of silence, love hears...

In times of doubt, love hopes…

In times of sorrow, love heals...

And in all times, love remembers.

May time soften the pain

Until all that remains 

Is the warmth of the memories

And the love. 

In times of darkness love sees, funeral poem.

14.  Don't Cry for Me - Anon

Don't cry for me now I have died, for I'm still here I'm by your side,

My body's gone but my soul is here, please don't shed another tear,

I am still here I'm all around, only my body lies in the ground.

I am the snowflake that kisses your nose,

I am the frost, that nips your toes.

I am the sun ,bringing you light,

I am the star, shining so bright.

I am the rain, refreshing the earth,

I am the laughter, I am the mirth.

I am the bird, up in the sky,

I am the cloud, that's drifting by.

I am the thoughts, inside your head,

While I'm still there, I can't be dead.

15.  Crossing the Bar - Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

This poem for memorial services or funerals is suitable for all those who love the sea: 

Sunset and evening star,

      And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

      When I put out to sea,

   But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

      Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

      Turns again home.

   Twilight and evening bell,

      And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

      When I embark;

   For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place

      The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

      When I have crost the bar.

16.  If I should die - A. Price Hughes - Read at the Funeral of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. 

If I should die and leave you here awhile,

Be not like others, sore undone, who keep

Long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.

For my sake - turn again to life and smile, 

Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do

Something to comfort other hearts than thine.

Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine

And I, perchance, may therein comfort you.

17.  To Honour You - Connie F. Kiefer Byrd

To honour you...

I get up every day and take a breath. 

And start another day without you in it. 

To honour you...

I laugh and love with those who knew your smile 

And the way your eyes twinkled with mischief and secret knowledge.

To honour you...

I take the time to appreciate everyone I love, 

I know now there is no guarantee of days or hours spent in their presence.

To honour you...

I listen to music you would have liked, 

And sing at the top of my lungs, with the windows rolled down

To honour you...

I take chances, say what I feel, hold nothing back, 

Risk making a fool of myself, dance every dance. 

You were my light, my heart, my gift of love, from the very highest source. 

So every day, I vow to make a difference, share a smile, live, laugh and love. 

Now I live for us both, so all I do, 

I do to honour you.

18.  Remember - Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away, 

         Gone far away into the silent land; 

         When you can no more hold me by the hand, 

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. 

Remember me when no more day by day 

         You tell me of our future that you plann'd: 

         Only remember me; you understand 

It will be late to counsel then or pray. 

Yet if you should forget me for a while 

         And afterwards remember, do not grieve: 

         For if the darkness and corruption leave 

         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had, 

Better by far you should forget and smile 

         Than that you should remember and be sad.

19.  Remember Me – Christine Currah

Remember me when I am gone

But not with sorrow, pain and grief

Think of me as a turning leaf

That in the winter falls from its branch

To be born again in spring

And live forever in your heart

20.  No Man Is An Island  - John Donne (1572-1631)

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 

well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 

own were; any man's death diminishes me, 

because I am involved in mankind. 

And therefore never send to know for whom 

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

21.  Departed Comrade - Lucretius (99 - 55 BC)

Departed comrade! Thou, redeemed from pain

Shall sleep the sleep that kings desire in vain:

Not thine the sense of loss

But lo, for us the void

That never shall be filled again.

Not thine but ours the grief.

All pain is fled from thee.

And we are weeping in thy stead;

Tears for the mourners who are left behind

Peace everlasting for the quiet dead.

More ideas for Poems for Memorial Services

For copyright reasons we cannot re-publish all of the poems we'd like here.  But here are some more ideas which you may be able to find at your local library or in this excellent book which is full of readings and poems as well as everything you need to know about planning a funeral or memorial service.  It's available on Kindle so you can be reading it in minutes.  

And Death Shall Have No Dominion - Dylan Thomas (You can see Nicki Alexander reading this in an episode of Silent Witness by the same name). 

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas

Dying Was Easy - F Faulkner

The Existence of Love - Marjorie Pizer

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