Poetry brings comfort to many people and it often features in funeral ceremonies. And while every humanist ceremony is unique, we find that there are some poems which are requested more than others as readings for humanist funerals.
There is no religious content in a humanist ceremony, but secular readings and poems often feature. Some choices are sentimental and emotional, others are uplifting and humorous – but all are chosen for what they meant to the deceased and their loved ones. Celebrants are also adept at incorporating poems where there is some mention of religious concepts, especially if the poet or the poem itself is significant to the deceased or how they lived.
Here are some suggestions for anyone wishing to choose a love poem for a humanist funeral.
‘Love Lives On’ (Anon)
Those we love remain with us
for love itself lives on,
and cherished memories never fade
because a loved one’s gone.
Those we love can never
be more than a thought apart,
far as long as there is memory,
they’ll live on in the heart.
‘The Life That I Have’ by Leo Marks
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
‘Because I Love You So’ (Anon)
Time will not dim the face I love,
The voice I heard each day,
The many things you did for me,
In your own special way.
All my life I’ll miss you,
As the years come and go,
But in my heart I’ll keep you,
Because I love you so.
‘Time Will Ease the Hurt’ by Bruce Wilmer
The sadness of the present days
Is locked and set in time,
And moving to the future
Is a slow and painful climb.
But all the feelings that are now
So vivid and so real
Can’t hold their fresh intensity
As time begins to heal.
No wound so deep will ever go
Yet every hurt becomes
A little less from day to day.
Nothing else can erase the painful
Imprints on your mind;
But there are softer memories
That time will let you find.
Though your heart won’t let the sadness
Simply slide away,
The echoes will diminish
Even though the memories stay.
After being diagnosed with leukaemia and emphysema in 2010, humanist poet and broadcaster, Clive James wrote the beautiful poem ‘Japanese Maple’ about a tree given to him by his daughter. Listen to Clive reading ‘Japanese Maple’.
‘Japanese Maple’ by Clive James
Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:
Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?
Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.
My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that.That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:
Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colours will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.
A humanist funeral is a non-religious ceremony that focuses on the person who has died, the life they led, and the relationships they forged.
The ceremony is conducted by a humanist celebrant and it is both a celebration of a life and a dignified, personal farewell.
If you would like to discuss funeral plans with one of our celebrants, our online map makes it easy for you to find a celebrant near you.