Although it sounds simple enough, choosing a funeral poem can be an overwhelming task. Is it appropriate? Does it reflect their personality? Will it offend anyone in attendance? These are all questions that you might begin to ask yourself. There are many decisions to be made when arranging the funeral, but choosing a funeral poem is one of the more personal ones. You want it to come from the heart, yet it must be a suitable choice for the circumstances. This is why we have published this article, to help you with the task at hand.
Things to consider...
- Funeral wishes
- Religious vs non-religious
- Who will give the reading
- The order of service
- Consider uplifting options
- Write you own
- What to avoid
- Printing the poem
- The Person
It may come as a surprise to you, but your loved-one may have outlined what readings and poems they want included in the service, in their funeral wishes. It is important to check with the person arranging the funeral that there have been no instructions left on this matter. It may not be the case that they have listed the exact reading, but they may have instructed on the theme for the funeral itself and you can plan around these wishes.
Religious Vs Non-Religious
It is important to check with the person arranging the funeral if the service is going to be religious or non-religious. This is out of respect for not only the deceased, but for their families and for the service leaders themselves. It is also equally important to check the religious faith of the departed. You should not include your own beliefs into the service, if the beliefs are not shared by the deceased or their families. The last thing you would wish to do is offend someone, no matter if your heart was in the right place.
Who to give the reading
Usually, an immediate family member or close friend will carry out a reading at the service. It is important to ensure the person who has taken on the responsibility of the reading, is comfortable to do so. It is always a good idea to have someone close by, who can step in, should the reading become too much for the reader to manage. The service leader will usually offer to assist if the reader is unable to carry out the reading.
The order of service
Dependant on the type of service, you will have a set running order, in which the service leader will guide you through. Typically, there are 2 readings, however this can vary significantly. A small cremation ceremony may only have 1 reading, as this can be a very intimate service with only several attendees. Whereas a celebration of life ceremony may have many readings. The number of readings you include may also be dictated by the amount of time you have for the ceremony. When booking the venue for the funeral, you will be advised on how much time you have for the service, you will need to abide by this timing. If you are able to, let the readers know at what part during the service they are to perform their readings, this will ensure they are prepared and ready when called upon by the service leader.
Consider uplifting options
Funeral poems do not have to be full of sorrow and sadness. Including a happy, uplifting poem is perfectly acceptable. Even adding a small amount of humour in a funeral reading is acceptable, in most cases, so long as it does not include content in which could be offensive to fellow mourners. Be mindful that this is an extremely sensitive time, but that doesn’t mean you cannot choose a happy poem to pay your respects. Poems of days gone by, life, love, and family, are all wonderful ways to pay respects to your loved-one.
Write your own
Consider writing your own poem. Take the time to think of all the most wonderful memories, characteristics, and traits about the deceased and incorporate them into a poem dedicated solely to them. This is a true personal form of tribute, as the words will come straight from the heart and will be dedicated to their being, a beautiful way to pay your respects. A poem written for the service, will also mean so much more to the family of the departed.
Things to avoid
- Do not use cursive words.
- Do not make the poem about yourself.
- Do not make it to lengthy, unless cleared by the funeral leader.
- Do not include content which may question their character.
- Do not include content in which is disrespectful to the family.
Printing the poem
It is recommended to have a printed copy of the reading prepared for the funeral service. This will not only guide the reader through the poem, but will provide them something to focus on, to help with any anxiety they may feel over public speaking. Another reason we suggest preparing a printed copy, is to ensure another reader can read the text clearly and take over should this be required. No matter how much you practice and memorise the poem, it is always best to take a printed copy, as the funeral will be full of emotion, and this can have an impact on your ability to recite the poem from memory. Following the funeral, you may wish to offer up your reading as a ceremonial tribute during a burial or cremation. Most burial sites and crematoriums will allow you to add the printed poem to rest with the departed, as a final parting gift.
If you are arranging the funeral itself, poems make for a lovely tribute to include in the order of service booklets. Printing the order of service allows for each person in attendance to receive their own copy of the service, allowing them to reflect on the service, readings, and poems, in the days following the funeral. This makes for a wonderful keepsake, in remembrance of your loved-one.
If you have written your own poem, you may also wish to print a copy for the family of the bereaved. You can even frame your poem, this will make for a very moving gift for those processing loss, in which will be very much appreciated.
Don’t forget who the poem is dedicated to
Most importantly, make sure the poem you have chosen is a fitting tribute for your loved-one. That is what a funeral is about, paying respect, farewells and gratitude for the life that has come to pass. If you are arranging a funeral or have been asked to perform a reading, put time and care into your contribution, and most importantly, always keep who the poem is for in mind.