Because so much in our cultural ceremonies is geared toward a religious perspective on life and death, it can be incredibly difficult to navigate the funeral planning process when a person without faith ties passes. For the secular crowd, then, collecting non-religious funeral readings, songs, and ceremony information before their final days is essential.
This kind of funeral preparation is of particular importance if you come from a religious family, or are in an interfaith relationship. Folks raised in religious homes often have trouble separating their beliefs from those of the general populace, and that can make it even more difficult for them to begin planning a non-religious funeral. Try searching for "atheist funeral," and you'll see what I mean. So many people have no idea what happens at a funeral that doesn't involve a faith leader, prayer, and the promise of some form of life after death.
If you're a religious person who has found this article because you need secular funeral readings for someone else's ceremony, thank you for taking the time to plan a service that respectfully honors your loved one's memory. I know that this is a difficult period in your life, but you're doing great.
Here are 16 non-religious funeral readings from poems, submitted for your approval.
"When I am dead my dearest" by Christina Rossetti
"When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:"
"Our revels are now ended" from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
"Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:"
"The Choir Invisible" by George Eliot
"O May I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence: live
In pulses stirr'd to generosity."
"But Not Forgotten" by Dorothy Parker
"I think, no matter where you stray,
That I shall go with you a way.
Though you may wander sweeter lands,
You will not soon forget my hands,"
"Funeral Blues" by W.H. Auden
"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."
"Dear Lovely Death" by Langston Hughes
"Dear lovely Death
That taketh all things under wing
Never to kill
Only to change"
"Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep" by Mary Elizabeth Frye
"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."
"Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
"He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;"
"Remember Me" by Margaret Mead
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return."
"Dirge Without Music" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
"I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go but I am not resigned."
"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 against the dying of the light."
"The Emperor of Ice Cream" by Wallace Stevens
"Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds."
"Turn Again to Life" by Mary Lee Hall
"If I should die and leave you here a while,
be not like others sore undone,
who keep long vigil by the silent dust."
"Remember" by Christina Rossetti
"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."
"Epitaph on a Friend" by Robert Burns
"Few hearts like his, with virtue warm'd,
Few heads with knowledge so inform'd;
If there's another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this."
"Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver
"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting."