Funerals provide people with an opportunity to pay their respect to a loved one, share memories with family and friends, and console everyone in this time of mourning. However, in this time of mourning, it can be difficult to come up with the right things to say.
Because funerals can be diverse and varied, there are countless answers to the question, “What do you read at a funeral?” People often read passages from literature, quotations, scripture, poetry, and song lyrics, to name a few. Some funerals are more religious in nature, and others serve as a secular celebration of life. The first step to deciding what to read is to determine the theme of your loved one’s funeral.
What to Read at a Religious Funeral
Funerals that are religious in nature pray for the soul of the deceased and offer comfort to loved ones who attend. If your loved one is having a religious funeral, you may want to consult the religious official who will preside at the funeral to determine appropriate guidelines for your reading. Certain religions have customs for specific prayers that are read or recited by family members, while others allow for more creative choices.
Your loved one’s faith will assist you in determining appropriate readings that are religious in nature. Scripture provides a range of passages that can accurately reflect the message you want to convey. For example, Psalm 23 is a very common choice at many religious funerals. It comes from the Book of Psalms in the third section of the Hebrew Bible or the Book of Psalms in the Christian Old Testament.
What to Read at a Secular Funeral
Secular funerals are not religious, and there are a number of options for readings. The appropriate reading will be based on the message you want to convey. When you are trying to decide what do you read at a funeral, you can simplify the process by considering the connection between your reading and the deceased. The reality is that you can choose to read anything that is appropriate at a secular funeral, so you need to make the process less overwhelming by considering how the reading connects you and friends and family to your loved one.
Choosing a Poem
Most people choose a poem that is used by 90% of the population of the world. Our view on this is you should try to avoid this situation as every funeral is different and unique. We advise using a poem that truly reflects the individual relationship you had with the deceased.
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Poems are a very popular choice for readings at a funeral. Many poets have a gift for conveying feelings through poetry that perfectly sums up what you are experiencing. During a period of grief, it is common to have felt so strong that there are no words to express them, and a poem can do the job beautifully.
If you would like to read a poem, you need to decide what message you want to convey. Maybe you want to express your sorrow over the loss of your loved one, or maybe you want to convey a celebration of the deceased person’s life.
There are many poems that are frequently used at funerals, but you can also hire someone to write a customized poem or even write one yourself. Poems are a wonderful choice of reading, and there are plenty that can express everything you want to say. Take a look at the following:
- Death Be Not Proud by John Donne
- A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Mary Frye
- Tis a Fearful Thing by Yehuda HaLevi
Choosing a Passage From Literature
Another popular type of reading is a passage from a book or a play. Often characters in literature have experienced what you are feeling, and a gifted author has put words to it that say everything you want to say. Your loved one may also have a favorite passage or author, and this is a wonderful way to share something that was meaningful to him or her.
When you are choosing a passage to read, look for one that is connected to your loved one in some way. It might be a passage that expresses how you feel, or it may remind people of how your loved one approached life. Reading a passage of this kind can bring comfort to everyone in the room by bringing everyone closer together. Take a look at these choices:
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare: contemplating death
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: the prince is about to leave the planet
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: passage on building good memories in life.
Choosing a Quote
Sometimes it is difficult to get through a longer reading. Feelings of grief can be overwhelming, and speaking for too long of a time can be painful. In a case where you want to read something, but you want to limit how much you read, you may want to choose a famous quote that concisely sums up exactly what you want to say.
Take a look at the following examples:
- Eleanor Roosevelt: “Many people walk in and out of your life, but only true friends leave footprints on your heart.”
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: “Death, when we consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence. I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind that his image is not only no longer terrifying me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling!”
- Thomas Lynch: “We get no choice. If we love, we grieve.”
- Hebrew Proverb: “Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but live in thankfulness that he was.”
Choosing Other Readings
You can also choose song lyrics as they often express feelings in much the same way as a poem does. If you have the desire and the ability, you may want to write something yourself. There are many different options, and you need to choose the one that resonates with you the most.
The most important thing to remember when you are determining what do you read at a funeral is that it is a personal choice. You should choose a reading that remembers your loved one and brings comfort to his or her friends and family members. This is your final opportunity to celebrate the deceased, so there is no wrong answer.