15 Non-Traditional celebration of life readings and poem ideas

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A loved one passing away is a tough moment in everyone’s life. So much remains unsaid that we wished we had more time to express. Readings and poems are a great way to express unspoken thoughts. Here are some poems and readings that can allow you to convey what you feel. 

Poem: A Life Well Lived 
Author: Unknown 

 A simple poem that everyone has heard at least once in their lives. This poem talks about what a life well lived truly means, the highs, the lows, the pains and the sorrows. All of it combined makes a life well-lived.

Poem: Ode to a Nightingale 
By: John Keats

Keats, a young poet who died at the tender age of twenty-five while suffering from tuberculosis, has pain, sorrow and beauty stitched throughout his odes. Ode to a Nightingale is a poem that not only focuses on morality and timelessness but also explores the ideas of immortality. 

Poem: from Endymion
By: John Keats 

The oft-quoted line is from this poem itself. 

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness….”

The death of Thomas Chatterton inspired Keats to write this poem filled with beauty, sorrow, and pain.

Poem: Funeral Blues 
By: W. H. Auden

One of the most famous funeral readings written by an interwar era poet. A poem written amidst the world wars captures the sorrows of losing a loved one. We today might never understand the pain of Auden while writing this poem. 

Poem: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
By: Mary Elizabeth Frye

This poem is a memorable reading as this work consoles the people that the deceased has left behind on this earth. This poem reprimands the grief-stricken people, forbidding them to not weep as she is present everywhere.

Poem: Death Is Nothing at All
By: Henry Scott-Holland

This poem is also another attempt to console all the people that the deceased has left behind. In his poem, Holland encourages people to go about life normally, to treat his absence with ease and familiarity, not pain and sorrow.

Poem: I am Standing Upon the Seashore
By: Henry Van Dyke

A beautiful poem by Henry Van Dyke, sometimes attributed to Victor Hugo. A moving funeral verse about death and the afterlife.

Poem: Let Me Go
By: Christina Rossetti

A short but memorable poem written by Victorian poet Christina Rossetti: Let Me Go. This poem urges the people she will leave behind to accept her death and let her go. She even encourages them to miss her, but not for a long time. 

Poem: I carry your heart with me
By: E. E. Cummings

A beautiful poem where the poet is the one left behind. The poet reminds us that even if the person is gone, the heart has a place dedicated to them. This poem reminds us that even if we experience the death of a person, we do not forget about them. 

Poem: Remember me 
By: Margaret Mead

This poem is a short funeral poem that talks about how different people process death. This poem is ideal for a eulogy, a brief message of love and remembrance. 

Poem: Dear Lovely Death
By: Langston Hughes

In this poem, Hughes mentions how death is not the ultimate end. Death is a mere change that occurs and therefore has no finality. This poem can help people through difficult times, especially if they have lost someone younger than them.

Poem: Play Jolly Music at my Funeral
By: Richard Greene

If the deceased was someone who enjoyed humour, laughs and music, this poem would be ideal for their celebration of life reading. 

Poem: Something Beautiful Remains
Author: Unknown

A simple poem where even when someone has passed away, the beautiful thing that remains with us is the memories of that individual. 

Passage: Roads go on Forever (The Lord of the Rings)
By: J. R. R. Tolkien 

A perfect passage for funeral reading as Bilbo gracefully accepts that his journey has finally come to an end. He also blesses others on their journey.

Song: Supermarket Flowers 
By: Ed Sheeran 

Music is another way to express yourself when word fails. Sheeran dedicated this song to his grandmother when she had passed away. Many can relate to the pain and sorrow of this song.