Funeral and Memorial Readings
Over the years we have often been asked for words or poems that might be read at a funeral. Recently we were asked again, and decided it might be useful to write a blog entry on this topic. We hope the list of books below might be helpful during the difficult time of planning a funeral or a memorial service.
The Book of Eulogies edited with commentary by Phyllis Theroux. This is a collection of memorial tributes, poetry, essays, and letters of condolence. It includes an index, so should you know a specific author that your loved one used to read, you can find all the names of the writers in the index. Perhaps unexpectedly, but helpfully, there is an entire section of tributes devoted to animals who have died.
Funeral and Memorial Service Readings, Poems and Tributes edited by Rachel R. Baum is sorted by the type of tribute you are planning. Thus there are sections, among others, for mothers, fathers, children, friends, soldiers, and pets.
Readings & Poems edited by Jane McMorland Hunter. Included in this volume are sections of readings and poems that would be appropriate for a funeral or a memorial service. The two sections are “a quiet door” and “love and go on” and include poems by Shakespeare, Christina Rossetti, and A. E. Housman among others. One of the loveliest things about this particular book are the illustrations. (One used to illustrate this blog.) In the introduction the author writes: “Death is one of the certainties of life, as is the fact that at some stage each of us will almost certainly have to deal with the loss of someone close. The pieces here deal first with death itself and then with solitude, but the dividing line is deliberately hazy; somehow we have to find a balance between shedding tears and moving on, remembering and being sad or forgetting and smiling.”
Bartlett’s Poems for Occasions edited by Geoffrey O’Brien with a foreword by Billy Collins. There are sections for “death and mortality” and “grief and mourning.”
The Art of Losing: poems of grief & healing edited by Kevin Young. This volume includes “150 devastatingly beautiful contemporary elegies that embrace the pain, heartbreak, and healing stages of mourning.”
The Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets series offers two possible volumes. One is Poems of Mourning selected and edited by Peter Washington and the other is Poems of the Sea selected and edited by J. D. McClatchy. Because we live by the sea Poems of the Sea feels appropriate for many an occasion, but for a person who loved the ocean you might just find the perfect poem to read aloud at a funeral or a memorial service.