Choosing the best funeral reading to honor your loved one is a daunting task. You may be overcome with emotion and there is an added pressure of time.
This collection of popular readings for funerals will help you quickly and easily select a tribute that is both appropriate and meaningful for your loved one.
Popular Funeral Readings
Family and friends look for poems and other passages to read during services that remember the deceased, whether it be a funeral, memorial service, funeral Mass, or committal service.
At this time of emotional stress, it is often difficult for you to express thoughts and emotions through words. Using biblical scriptures, poems, quotations, and other options can help articulate what you are feeling about your loved one.
You have our condolences.
Here are some devotional readings to choose from.
Christian Bible Readings
For Christians, the reading of Bible verse can bring comfort. It is also a good way to honor the person who died while remembering one’s faith in Christ.
Romans 8:35, 37- 39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Jewish Funeral Readings
In Jewish funeral tradition, there is a recitation of selected Psalms, (eulogies about the goodness of the deceased), and a Memorial Prayer seeking God to take care of the soul of the departed. The chosen passages must be appropriate to the life of the person who died.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He has me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He revives my soul; He guides me on paths of righteousness for His glory. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no harm, For you are with me. Your rod and your staff do comfort me. You set a table in sight of my enemies; You anoint my head with rich oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall abide in the house of the Lord for ever.
What is Man?
“O Lord, what is man that You regard him, or the son of man that You take account of him? Man is like a breath, his days are like a passing shadow … So teach us to treasure our days that we may get a wise heart. Observe the good man, and behold the upright, for there is immortality for the man of peace. Surely God will ransom my soul from the grave; He will gladly accept me … The dust returns to the earth as it was, but the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
The Memorial Prayer – Kel Maleh Rachamim
For a man:
“O God, full of compassion, Thou who dwellest on high! Grant perfect rest beneath the sheltering wings of Thy presence, among the holy and pure who shine as the brightness on the heavens, unto the soul of _ the son of _ who has gone unto eternity, and in whose memory charity is offered. May his repose be in paradise. May the Lord of Mercy bring him under the cover of His wings forever, and may his soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life. May the Lord be his possession, and may he rest in peace. Amen.”
For a woman:
“O God, full of compassion, Thou who dwellest on high! Grant perfect rest beneath the sheltering wings of Thy presence, among the holy and pure who shine as the brightness on the heavens, unto the soul of _ the daughter of _ who has gone unto eternity, and in whose memory charity is offered. May her repose be in paradise. May the Lord of Mercy bring her under the cover of His wings forever, and may her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life. May the Lord be her possession, and may she rest in peace. Amen.”
Catholic Funeral Readings
There are three major funeral rites in the Catholic Church:
- Vigil for the Deceased (Wake Service)
- Funeral Mass
- Committal Service
These funeral rites require religious readings dedicated to the person who died. Here is a more comprehensive guide to Catholic funeral readings from the Old Testament and New Testament.
Wake Service Readings
A wake service, also known as the vigil for the deceased, is a period where the Church prays with the family before the main funeral liturgy (usually in the form of Mass). There is usually a two-hour gathering during the wake service.
Families often have a structured time of prayer during this service and the readings are taken from the scripture. You can choose from popular readings from the Old and New Testament also appropriate for funerals.
Although eulogies are best given during this service, the context of your tribute and prayer must focus on the working of God’s grace in the life of the deceased. It should not only be about the person who died, but also refer to what God has done in their life.
Isaiah 25:6a, 7-9 (Old Testament)
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah
On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the Lord to whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
The Word of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:1, 6-10 (New Testament)
A reading from the second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
We have an everlasting home in heaven
Brothers and sisters:
We know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent,
should be destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a dwelling not made with hands,
eternal in heaven.
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each one may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
The Word of the Lord
Funeral Mass Readings
Catholics commonly hold a funeral Mass for the person who died. The Mass is deemed as the most powerful prayer that can be offered for the deceased. It is a time and place where the attendant is closer to the deceased.
Funeral Mass also provides for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the soul of the deceased. The readings spoken here are about the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection, which gives a special meaning to the life of the person who died.
Wisdom 3:1-9 (First Reading)
A Reading from the Book of Wisdom
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if to others, indeed, they seem punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their judgment they shall shine
and dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with the elect.
The Word of the Lord
Romans 6: 3-9 (Second Reading)
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans
Brothers and Sisters:
Are you unaware that we
who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him
through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.
For if we have grown into union with him
through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that
our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ,
raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
The Word of the Lord
The committal service is a Christian practice that follows a funeral and is considered the final liturgy in the Order of Christian Funerals. A committal service makes use of Scripture, intercessions, prayers, and a few words of hope from the presider.
This service commonly takes place during the burial at the cemetery, thus being named a graveside service. A graveside service may also take place at a crematorium after the cremation, or at the burial site of the deceased’s ashes.
On Passing a Graveyard
May perpetual light shine upon
The faces of all who rest here.
May the lives they lived
Unfold further in spirit.
May all their past travail
Find ease in the kindness of clay.
May the remembering earth
Mind every memory they brought.
May the rains from the heavens
Fall gently upon them.
May the wildflowers and grasses
Whisper their wishes into light.
May we reverence the village of presence
In the stillness of this silent field.
John Donohue in Benedictus, A Book of Blessings
Return This Body
This body that has borne her all her life from birth to death,
that gave her breath to live and sight to see,
that has served her every need, that has shown you the beauty
of her unique person in its eyes and made you aware of her presence in your heart,
and without which she would be a mystery to you;
we now return to its source with the grace it deserves from us,
without our attachment to it but with our lasting love for her.
Source: The Inspired Funeral
Peace, my Heart
Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.
At a Grave
“They who stand with breaking hearts around this [little] grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest. We know that through the common wants of life—the needs and duties of each hour—their grief will lessen day by day, until at last this grave will be to them a place of rest and peace—almost of joy. There is for them this consolation: The dead do not suffer. If they live again, their lives will surely be as good as ours. We have no fear. We are all children of the same mother, and the same fate awaits us all. We, too, have our religion [belief], and it is this: Help for the living—Hope for the dead.”
Robert G. Ingersoll, adapted
Memorial Service Readings
Readings in a memorial service might be included in the eulogy or during other spoken memorial tributes. Because of the emotional strain of losing a loved one, it can be extremely difficult for families and friends to write and perform speeches during this occasion.
To make it easier, the selected reading for a memorial service should be comfortable for the speaker to read aloud. Practice may help, but it is natural and personal for the speaker to express emotion and sometimes even pause to compose themself.
There are plenty of readings fit for a memorial service at any point in this list. Scripture passages, poems, prayers, and other readings can enhance your eulogy.
As you search, ask yourself what would be meaningful to your loved one.
There was a time when funeral and memorial services were heavily influenced by religion and readings focused on the Gospel. Now, more and more families choose to have secular gatherings or add a religious touch to secular practices.
Readings do not have to be religious. They can have a personal touch and be derived from any source, as long as it is appropriate to the occasion.
Catholic Funeral Note: You cannot substitute the biblical passages with secular poems or readings for the funeral Mass. Non-religious readings are usually reserved for memorial services.
Readings dedicated to the deceased are not limited to prayers and poems. You may also read narrative passages to honor the memory of your loved one.
Here are some readings from literature and various sources that you are fitting for a funeral service.
“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s life anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”
The Apology of Socrates
“There is great reason to hope that death is a good; for one of two things—either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain…Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this?…Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.”
Plato, Translation by B. Jowett
To Those Who Mourn
“The old adage, Time heals all wounds, is only true if there is no suppuration within. To be bitter, to lament unceasingly, ‘Why did this have to happen to him?’ makes the wound fester; the mind, renewing the stab, causes the wound to bleed afresh. It is hard, very hard, not to be bitter in the early days, not to blame doctors, hospitals, drugs, that failed to cure. Harder still for the woman whose husband died not by illness but by accident, who was cut short in full vigor, in the prime of life, killed perhaps in a car crash returning home from work. The first instinct is to seek revenge upon the occupants of the other car, themselves unhurt, whose selfish excess of speed caused the disaster. Yet this is no answer to grief. All anger, all reproach, turns inwards upon itself. The infection spreads, pervading the mind and body.
I would say to those who mourn – and I can only speak from my own experience – look upon each day that comes as a challenge, as a test of courage. The pain will come in waves, some days worse than others, for no apparent reason. Accept the pain. Do not suppress it. Never attempt to hide grief from yourself. Little by little, just as the deaf, the blind, the handicapped develop with time an extra sense to balance disability, so the bereaved, the widowed, will find new strength, new vision, born of the very pain and loneliness which seem at first, impossible to master. I address myself more especially to the middle-aged who, like myself, look back to over thirty years or more of married life and find it hardest to adapt. The young must, of their very nature, heal sooner than ourselves.”
Daphne Du Maurier, The Rebecca Notebook And Other Memories
Poetry is an art form that cannot be translated. There are many styles that express beauty and love and honor in so many wondrous ways. If your loved one had a favorite poem that would be appropriate for a funeral, it would be a great choice.
These can be delivered standalone, as in the video below, or as part of a eulogy. It’s up to you.
As a reminder, don’t pause at the end of a line unless there is punctuation.
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.
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 sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn 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.
Mary Elizabeth Frye
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 my life is done.
Helen Lowrie Marshall
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 aeroplanes 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
Source: All Poetry
Below is a video of John Hannah reading W. H. Auden’s Funeral Blues from the 1994 film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Another option is to honor the deceased with quotations from books, speeches, films, and other sources. The chosen quotes can enhance the personal speech of the speaker.
In selecting quotes, start by considering the favorite quotations of the deceased. If you cannot think of one, choose a quote that would best honor the deceased in memory and resonate with the audience.
“Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the present. What the caterpillar perceives is the end; to the butterfly is just the beginning. Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well.”
“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”
Quote by Albert Einstein
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Quote by Rabindranath Tagore
“Say not in grief that she is no more
but say in thankfulness that she was
A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.”
“Say not in grief he is no more – but live in thankfulness that he was.”
Short Funeral Readings
Readings are best when simple and meaningful so it can still be fitting to deliver a short passage. If the feelings and emotions of the person delivering the tribute are conveyed in the reading, it will be meaningful.
I’m Here For A Short Visit Only
I’m here for a short visit only,
And I’d rather be loved than hated.
Eternity may be lonely
When my body’s disintegrated;
And that which is loosely termed my soul
Goes whizzing off through the infinite
By means of some vague remote control.
I’d like to think I was missed a bit.
What is born will die,
What has been gathered will be dispersed,
What has been accumulated will be exhausted,
What has been built up will collapse
And what has been high will be brought low.
To all light things I compared her; to a snowflake, a feather.
I remember she rested at the dance on my arm, as a bird on its nest lest the eggs break, lest she lean too heavily on our love.
Snow melts, feathers are blown away;
I have let her ashes down in me like an anchor.
R. S. Thomas
I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers!
I bow to you all and take my departure.
Here I give back the keys of my door
—and I give up all claims to my house.
I only ask for last kind words from you.
We were neighbors for long,
but I received more than I could give.
Now the day has dawned
and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out.
A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.
Long Funeral Readings
Sometimes a long reading is required to capture the feeling of your loved one. The memorial service is usually the best place for longer readings because it is often longer and more open-ended.
I Will Live Forever
The day will come when my body will lie upon a white sheet neatly tucked under four corners of a mattress located in a hospital; busily occupied with the living and the dying.
At a certain moment a doctor will determine that my brain has ceased to function and that, for all intents and purposes, my life has stopped.
When that happens, do not attempt to instill artificial life into my body by the use of a machine, and don’t call this my deathbed, let it be called the bed of life, and let my body be taken from it to help others lead fuller lives.
Give my sight to the man who has never seen a sunrise, a baby’s face or love in the eyes of a woman.
Give my heart to a person whose own heart has caused nothing but endless days of pain.
Give my blood to the teenager who was pulled from the wreckage of his car, so that he might live to see his grandchildren play.
Give my kidneys to the one who depends on a machine to exist from week to week.
Take my bones, every muscle, every fiber and nerve in my body and find a way to make a crippled child walk.
Explore every corner of my brain. Take my cells, if necessary, and let them grow so that, someday a speechless boy will shout at the crack of a bat and a deaf girl will hear the sound of rain agianst her window.
Burn what is left of me and scatter the ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow.
If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weakness and all prejudice against my fellow man.
Give my sins to the devil.
Give my soul to God.
If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.
None lives for ever, brother, and nothing lasts for long.
Keep that in mind and rejoice.
Our life is not the one old burden, our path is not the one long journey.
One sole poet has not to sing one aged song.
The flower fades and dies; but he who wears the flower has not to mourn for it for ever.
Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice.
There must come a full pause to weave perfection into music.
Life droops toward its sunset to be drowned in the golden shadows.
Love must be called from its play to drink sorrow and be borne to the heaven of tears.
Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice.
We hasten to gather our flowers lest they are plundered by the passing winds.
It quickens our blood and brightens our eyes to snatch kisses that would vanish if we delayed.
Our life is eager, our desires are keen, for time tolls the bell of parting.
Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice.
There is not time for us to clasp a thing and crush it and fling it away to the dust.
The hours trip rapidly away, hiding their dreams in their skirts.
Our life is short; it yields but a few days for love.
Were it for work and drudgery it would be endlessly long.
Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice.
Beauty is sweet to us, because she dances to the same fleeting tune with our lives.
Knowledge is precious to us, because we shall never have time to complete it.
All is done and finished in the eternal Heaven.
But earth’s flowers of illusion are kept eternally fresh by death.
Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice.
To Be Or Not To Be (Hamlet)
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.
A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers, Life is but an empty dream!- For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, Is our destined end or way; But to act, that each to-morrow Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave, Still, like muffled drums, are beating Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life, Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no future, howe’er pleasant! Let the dead Past bury its dead! Act,-act in the living present! Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
These are the vigil for the deceased (wake service), funeral mass, and the committal service (graveside service).
Not during Catholic funeral Mass, it requires you to take the readings from the Scripture only. You cannot substitute the biblical passages with secular poems or readings. You may use non-religious readings on other services outside the Mass.
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