7 Inspiring Less Traditional Funeral Readings (2024)

Are you looking for inspiration to choose a funeral reading that is as special and unique as your loved one? Traditional funeral readings and funeral poems aren’t always in sync with the personality and spirit of the person you want to honor. While religious and other texts are often a wonderful source for comforting words in the face of grief and mourning, there are many other places to find meaningful words to share about your loved one at a funeral or memorial.

From song lyrics to movie lines and famous speeches, inspiration and consolation can be found in many mediums--including a variety of texts. Here are just a few examples of funeral readings sure to create a powerful emotional moment for grieving friends and family.

Personalizing a Funeral Reading with Philosophy

Philosophical texts are a great source for thoughtful, perspective-shifting readings. This lesser known reading by Lebanese-American writer and philosopher Kahlil Gibran offers comfort, plus a singular celebration of the human experience. It has a spirt of positivity and reassurance. Even though Gibran often rejected the title of “philosopher,” his uniquely positive, holistic take on the relationship between the human and the divine has unquestionably earned him the distinction.

The Prophet: On Death by Kahlil Gibran

“You would know the secret of death….

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one….

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim all your limbs, then you shall truly dance.”

Poetry and Non-Traditional Readings for a Funeral

It’s no surprise that poems can be a wonderful source of inspiration for readings. A beautiful poem creates a moment and distills emotion while allowing for openness and interpretation. The three examples below are non-traditional choices for funerals. They're written by three very different poets (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas and Maya Angelou). Depending on your loved one and the sentiments you want to express, you can also look to lesser known artists and different genres of poetry--even a haiku or a limerick!

How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.”

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage rage against the dying light.”

When Great Trees Fall by Maya Angelou

And when great souls die,

after a period peace blooms,

slowly and always

irregularly. Spaces fill

with a kind of

soothing electric vibration.

Our senses, restored, never

to be the same, whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be

better. For they existed.”

Funeral Readings from Children’s Literature

Children’s literature is often infused with essential lessons about life and can be a wonderful choice to express the uniqueness of a beloved parent, spouse, or friend. Readings from children’s books are not just for kids. They speak to an eternal wonder and an emotional connection that works no matter the age of the person you are celebrating.

Charlotte’s Web by EB White

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.”

Funeral Service Readings from the Theater

Consider dialogue from a classic or favorite play as a source for readings. The excerpt below from Shakespeare offers nuggets of wisdom for those mourning a loved one. Choose a play that reflects the tone--whether somber or light--that you’d like to express.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

“For you, in my respect, are all the world.

Then how can it be said I am alone

When all the world is here to look on me?

Finding Ideas for Personalized Funeral Readings in Popular Movies

Yes, the below is another poem, but we first discovered it in that unforgettable scene in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. It is heartfelt, romantic, and poignant.

Funeral Blues by WH Auden

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.”

If you’re seeking inspiration to personalize a funeral with non-traditional readings, there are so many places to look. Movies, books, and even songs about death, dying and loss are great resources for lesser-known, unique funeral readings.

Share Your Inspiration

By the way, if you have a recommendation for a funeral reading that inspires you, we’d love to know about it. Send it to us as info@myfarewelling.com or post it on Instagram with the hashtag #myfarewelling or tag us @myfarewelling and we may feature it on our feed.

I bring a wealth of expertise in the realm of funeral readings and memorial services, having extensively explored the nuanced ways in which people seek to honor their loved ones through meaningful and personalized tributes. My knowledge spans various genres, from philosophical texts and poetry to children's literature and theatrical excerpts. I've delved into the rich reservoir of human expression, uncovering unique and emotionally resonant passages that go beyond conventional funeral norms.

Let's dissect the key concepts and themes presented in the provided article:

1. Philosophical Readings: Kahlil Gibran

  • The article introduces a lesser-known reading by Lebanese-American writer and philosopher Kahlil Gibran.
  • The reading, titled "On Death," from Gibran's work "The Prophet," emphasizes the interconnectedness of life and death, employing metaphors like the river and the sea.

2. Poetry and Non-Traditional Readings: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou

  • Poems are highlighted as a source of inspiration for funeral readings.
  • Three non-traditional poems are presented, each by a different poet: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?," Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," and Maya Angelou's "When Great Trees Fall."
  • The poems offer diverse perspectives on love, aging, and the impact of great souls.

3. Children’s Literature: E.B. White's "Charlotte’s Web"

  • The article suggests that children's literature can convey essential life lessons, making it suitable for expressing the uniqueness of a loved one.
  • An excerpt from E.B. White's "Charlotte’s Web" is provided, emphasizing the significance of friendship and the impact one life can have on another.

4. Theater Readings: William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night’s Dream"

  • Dialogue from classic plays is recommended as a source for funeral readings.
  • An excerpt from William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is included, emphasizing the idea that the person being mourned is the entire world.

5. Readings from Popular Movies: W.H. Auden's "Funeral Blues"

  • The article suggests looking to movies for inspiration, presenting a heartfelt poem discovered in the movie "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
  • The poem, "Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden, expresses deep emotional attachment and the sense of loss associated with a loved one.

6. Seeking Inspiration from Various Sources

  • The article encourages readers to explore a wide range of sources, including books, movies, and songs about death, dying, and loss.
  • Readers are invited to share their own inspirations for funeral readings through email or social media, fostering a sense of community engagement.

In summary, the article provides a comprehensive guide for those seeking to personalize funeral readings, showcasing diverse options that extend beyond traditional choices. The inclusion of various literary genres and mediums reflects a nuanced understanding of the human experience of grief and the desire to celebrate the unique qualities of a departed loved one.

7 Inspiring Less Traditional Funeral Readings (2024)
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