How to find the perfect funeral reading
A funeral is a chance to celebrate a life, and there are many ways to bring personality and colour into the service.
Readings allow us to convey the character of the deceased, our feelings of loss and love, as well as involving others in key roles in the service.
Heading – Who is going to read it?
There are a few things to bear in the mind when considering who to ask to read. There is a balance to be struck between someone who was close to the person, and someone who will not find their emotions overwhelming on the day. No one is expecting a perfect or professional performance, and a little emotion will be treated with compassion and understanding by those present. However, the person needs to be comfortable speaking in public and not likely to be so overcome that they can’t speak at all. Often a family friend is a good choice, and also gives them an important role even though they are not immediate family.
Heading – How long does it need to be?
Short and concise is a good way to go. The longer the reading the more chance of emotions getting the better of the readers. A poem with two or three verses is more than enough, or a couple of paragraphs of prose.
We’ve included some of our favourite readings below. However, you don’t have to follow the crowd and you could try something different. Have a look at our tips to get you started.
1. Make it personal
Use an extract from a letter, email or poem that they wrote. If writing wasn’t their thing, how about a few lines from their favourite book or a quote from their favourite film.
2. Pick a place
Was there a special beach, a favourite holiday location or a small town where they grew up and went back to visit? Bringing in elements that reflect these special places can create some fond memories and bring the congregation together.
3. Don’t be too serious
If your loved one was known for their sense of humour, then there is nothing wrong with carrying that through into their funeral service. Retelling a funny story, poem or song can lighten the atmosphere and create a bittersweet mood.
4. Keep it short
Funerals are emotionally draining, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Keeping your reading short and sweet will hold the attention of the audience and make it easier for you to get through.
5. Be creative
Sometimes the best words are the ones you write yourself. You might like to consider writing something original or asking another family member or friend to do so.
Our favourite readings
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
W. H. Auden
ALL IS WELL
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped 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 which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we 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 effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
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.
Henry Scott Holland
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
LET ME GO
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.
DO NOT STAND AT MY GRAVE AND WEEP
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.
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.
An extract from Winnie the Pooh
“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together there is something you must always remember… You are braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we are apart I’ll always be with you.”
by A. A. Milne