Funeral Poems, Readings, Music, Quotations & Thoughts

Paul O'Grady Speaking at Cilla's Funeral

We can't all have showbiz friends to speak at our funerals. But we can certainly hope that our friends will remember us with a smile, speak of us with laughter and that thoughts of us will still bring them joy when we are gone.

I love the affection and sincerity with which Paul remembers Cilla. It's intimate and moving. Lovely.

More Meditations from the Quaker Tradition

William Penn.png

Another short extract from the writings of the great Quaker William Penn, founder of the State of Pennsylvania.

They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.

Death cannot kill what never dies. Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.

If absence be not death, neither is theirs. Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.

This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.

Funeral Writings on an Ostrich Egg

This Ostrich egg dates from the fifteenth Century. It was found in the excavations of a medieval Egyptian mausoleum and is covered in writing. There are verses from the koran and snatches of poetry and eulogy describing the soul's journey through death and on to the afterlife for the funeral of a young man. 

writing on ostrich egg

Wordsworth on the Loss of his Brother

William Wordsworth had a younger brother John who was a sea captain. William didn't often see his brother but loved him nonetheless. John Lost his life at sea in 1805 and here from Wordsworth's letters are some of his thoughts on loss and grief, edited and arranged to make a short reading;

We weep much to-day, and that relieves us. Grief will, and must, have its course; there is no wisdom in attempting to check it under the circumstances which we are all of us in here. We see nothing here that does not remind us of our dear brother; there is nothing about us that he has not known and loved. I never thought of him but with hope and delight.

For myself, I feel that there is something cut out of my life which cannot be restored.

A thousand times have I asked myself,  ’why was he taken away?’ and  In fact, there is no other answer which can satisfy and lay the mind at rest. Alas! what avails it? It was the will of God that he should be taken away.

Time only can give us regular tranquillity. I shall never forget him—never lose sight of him: there is a bond between us yet, the same as if he were living, nay, far more sacred,

But let me stop: I will not be cast down; were it only for his sake, I will not be dejected.

Ivan Constantinovich Aivazovsky - Shipwreck in the North Sea

The Top Twenty Tunes for Funerals

'Here We Go' - Britain's Favourite Farewellstop20 the Times had and Baby Boomers Jazz up Their Funerals from the Telegraph. The CoOp's latest survey of music chosen for funerals included the news that Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' has been well and truly toppled from the Number One spot by Eric Idle with 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'. It didn't say whether the clean version or the one with the sh** word was prefered.

Here is the full chart:

  1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Eric Idle from Monty Python’s 1983 film The Meaning of Life
  2. The Lord is My Shepherd - Psalm 23/Crimond, Traditional
  3. 3. Abide with Me - Traditional
  4. Match of the Day theme
  5. My Way - Frank Sinatra
  6. All Things Bright and Beautiful - Traditional
  7. Robbie Williams - Angels
  8. Enigma Variations (Nimrod) - Elgar
  9. You’ll Never Walk Alone - Gerry and the Pacemakers
  10. Cricket Theme / Soul Limbo - Booker T. & the MG’s (test match TV theme)
  11. Canon in D - Pachelbel
  12. My Heart Will Go On - Celine Dion (love theme from Titanic )
  13. = Last of the Summer Wine (theme tune)
    = Only Fools and Horses (theme tune)
  14. Time to Say Goodbye - Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bochelli
  15. Four Seasons - Vivaldi
  16. Ava Maria - Schubert
  17. Coronation Street (TV theme tune)
  18. = You Raise Me Up - Westlife
    = Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy
  19. World in Union (Rugby Theme) - Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and other versions
  20. = Nessun Dorma- Puccini
    = Adagio - Bizet/Albinoni

The Guardian has the Classical Chart, the Hymns and the Golden Oldies in full

Where are We Now?

David Bowie's song full of melancholy and longing, but somehow peaceful too:

Where are we now?
Where are we now?
The moment you know
You know, you know
As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s me
As long as there’s you


The Long and Winding Road

What can you say? It sounds more like a Classic with every year that goes by.

Do not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Many, many times I have been asked to read this poem. It speaks to people, and it speaks for them, saying what they feel and lack the words to say so I was really pleased to find that Katherine Jenkins had recorded the poem set to music.

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 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

Wet Evening in April

It is April and to have the light back is wonderful. I am grateful to my friend friend Stephen Pentz for showing me this poem I had never heard before. It's about memory and mortality so it has a place here.

Patrick Kavanagh

Wet Evening in April

The birds sang in the wet trees
And as I listened to them it was a hundred years from now
And I was dead and someone else was listening to them.
But I was glad I had recorded for him the melancholy.

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967)


The Sparrow in the Mead Hall

The only recorded statement of British pre-christian paganism is found in an account by the Venerable Bede in his History of the English Church and People.Lindisfarne Castle Bede describes the arrival of Christian monks at the court of the pagan King Edwin of Northumbria and in their discussion of religion one of the King's advisers says this:

The present life of man upon earth, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the house wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, while the fire blazes in the midst, and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter into winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.
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