The commemorative event may happen quickly after death, or may be scheduled for some time later. Here are some poems, prayers and blessings for every setting, whether AT HOME, AT THE CREMATORIUM, OR AT THE FUNERAL HOME. Find ceremony templates here.
Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amein.
Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe our children’s children, blessing.
Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amein.
Blessed is the light, blessed is the darkness
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.
Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amein.
-- Marge Piercy
Death is not the end
But the beginning
Of a metamorphosis.
For matter is never destroyed
And rearranged –
Often more perfectly.
Witness how in the moment of a caterpillar’s death
The beauty of the butterfly is born
And released from the prison of the cocoon
It flies free.
-- Peter Tatchell
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
And youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
And ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to desecration
And then perhaps to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or
From strength to weakness
And often back again;
From health to sickness,
And we pray to health again.
From offence to forgiveness,
From loneliness to love,
From joy to gratitude,
From pain to compassion,
From grief to understanding,
From fear to faith.
From defeat to defeat to defeat
Until, not looking backwards or ahead,
We see that victory lies not
At some high point along the way
But in having made the journey
Step by step,
A sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
And death a destination
And life is a journey.
--Rabbi Alvin Fine from Jewish Reform high holiday prayer book, Gates of Repentance
The first candle represents our grief.
The pain of losing you is intense.
It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.
This second candle represents our courage.
To confront our sorrow,
To comfort each other,
To change our lives.
This third candle we light in your memory.
For the times we laughed,
The times we cried,
The times we were angry with each other,
The silly things you did,
The caring and joy you gave us.
This fourth candle we light for our love.
We light this candle that your light will always shine.
As we enter this holiday season and share this night of remembrance
with our family and friends.
We cherish the special place in our hearts
that will always be reserved for you.
We thank you for the gift
your living brought to each of us.
We love you.
We remember you.
His laughter was better than the birds in the morning,
His smile turned the edge of the wind,
His memory disarms death and charms the surly grave.
We cannot grieve for more than a little while
For he lives in the earth around us,
And laughs from the sky.
-- C. Day Lewis
In a circle of friends, the one who dies first
Is the friend you will never forget:
This is the death that unhinges you
From the trappings of everyday life
And makes you – suddenly – absurdly grateful
For each new breath – beginning with this one.
This is the death that could break you apart
In every way possible; that persuades you –
In memory of that friend – to turn away
From whatever refuses to speak to your heart
From whatever threatens to numb your soul
From whatever it is that revels in death.
Yet this, too, is the friend you need by your side.
Listen. Together they urge you: Live your life.
-- Alice Kavounas
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea - remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty - remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity - remember me.
Remember me in your heart, your thoughts, and your memories of the times we
loved, the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will have never gone.
Time is a wheel: the day that we met
Is still there:
Everything changes but nothing is lost:
All that we shared,
All that we ever loved, belongs to us still:
Time is a wheel
Whatever has ended is just about to begin
All that we feel,
All that we ever felt, will come back again
Time is a wheel
The sound of your laughter, the rain in your hair,
Your hand in mine,
Your knock at the door, your step on the stair -
All are still there
Because time is a wheel and death will come round
As birth will come round
As love will come round, as peace will come round,
As joy will come round,
As life will come round, because time is a wheel
Bringing back even yet,
All that we ever shared , and the day that we met.
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar
a willow tree by a curving roadway
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;
damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;
such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.
We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.
The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.
It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.
-- Michael Anania
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.
May perpetual light shine upon
The face of he who rests here.
May the remembering earth
Mind every memory he brought.
May the rains from the heavens
Fall gently upon him.
May the wildflowers and grasses
Whisper their wishes into the light.
May we reverence the village of presence
In the stillness of this silent field.
-- Adapted from a poem by John Donohue
Death has nothing to do with going away.
The sun sets
The moon sets
But they are not gone.
In this short Life that only lasts an hour
How much - how little - is within our power
-- Emily Dickinson
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
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.
-- Maya Angelou
The rays of light filtered through
The sentinels of trees this morning.
I sat in the garden and contemplated.
The serenity and beauty
Of my feelings and surroundings
Completely captivated me.
I thought of you.
I discovered you tucked away
In the shadows of the trees.
Then, rediscovered you
In the smiles of the flowers
As the sun penetrated their petals
In the rhythm of the leaves
Falling in the garden
In the freedom of the birds
As they fly searching as you do.
I’m very happy to have found you,
Now you will never leave me
For I will always find you in the beauty of life.
-- Walter Rinder
I shall live beyond death, and I shall sing in your ears
Even after the vast sea-wave carries me back
To the vast sea-depth.
I shall sit at your board though without a body,
And I shall go with you to your fields, a spirit invisible.
I shall come to you at your fireside, a guest unseen.
Death changes nothing but the masks that cover our faces.
The woodsman shall be still a woodsman,
The ploughman, a ploughman,
And he who sang his song to the wind shall sing it also to
the moving spheres.
-- Kahlil Gibran, from The Garden of The Prophet
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: 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,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I carry your heart with me (I carry it in
My heart) I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
By only me is your doing, my darling) [or Dear Grandpa?]
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want
No world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
And it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
And whatever a sun will always sing is you
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
And the sky of a tree called life; which grows
Higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
And this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)
-- ee cummings
Her early leaf’s a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
-- Robert Frost
Blessed are those who give meaning to our lives;
holy and precious is the example they leave behind.
We pray: May our sorrows diminish as we recall their strength.
May their wisdom protect us and help us to live.
Let our grief be transformed into tenderness for those who are still with us.
-- Jewish prayer
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 candle-light.
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.
-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
Rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
Of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
-- Wendell Berry
Never more will the wind
cherish you again,
never more will the rain.
shall we find you bright
in the snow and wind.
The snow is melted,
the snow is gone
and you are flown:
Like a bird out of our hand,
like a light out of our heart,
You are gone.
- Hilda Doolittle
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen