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When we attend funerals, whether that’s as a loved one in mourning, a co-worker or perhaps as the celebrant officiating proceedings (and hopefully not as the dearly departed,) we are almost always in a different state of mind than when we entered the doors.

Deep contemplation accompanies every spoken word and every song. We become more aware of the fragility of life. It can bring a mix of emotions. We laugh, we cry, we ponder. Often, we are lost for words but feel like we should say something.

Here are 10 beautiful poems to keep at the ready.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

by Clare Harner

This poem is the version published in 1934 in The Gypsy poetry magazine. It is one of the most famous and most shared funeral poems.

Do not stand

By my grave, and weep.

I am not there,

I do not sleep-

I am the thousand winds that blow

I am the diamond glints in snow

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle, autumn rain.

As you awake with morning’s hush,

I am the swift up-flinging rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight,

I am the day transcending soft night.

Do not stand

By my grave, and cry-

I am not there.

I did not die.

When Great Trees Fall

 By Maya Angelou

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The late, great Maya Angelou (1928-2014) wrote this contemplating life and death and the influence that a person can have on you even when they are gone.

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

in forests,

small things recoil into silence,

their senses

eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,

the air around us becomes

light, rare, sterile.

We breathe, briefly.

Our eyes, briefly,

see with

a hurtful clarity.

Our memory, suddenly sharpened,


gnaws on kind words


promised walks

never taken.

Great souls die and

our reality, bound to

them, takes leave of us.

Our souls,

dependent upon their


now shrink, wizened.

Our minds, formed

and informed by their


fall away.

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.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

By Alan Seeger

The title is cool that’s for sure. American poet Alan Seeger fought in World War I, where he died after being injured in No Man’s Land. This was one of John F. Kennedy’s favourite poems.

I have a rendezvous with Death

At some disputed barricade,

When Spring comes back with rustling shade

And apple-blossoms fill the air—

I have a rendezvous with Death

When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand

And lead me into his dark land

And close my eyes and quench my breath—

It may be I shall pass him still.

I have a rendezvous with Death

On some scarred slope of battered hill,

When Spring comes round again this year

And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep

Pillowed in silk and scented down,

Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,

Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,

Where hushed awakenings are dear…

But I’ve a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town,

When Spring trips north again this year,

And I to my pledged word am true,

I shall not fail that rendezvous.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

 By Dylan Thomas

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This spiritual, eternity gazing poem by one of the giants of poetry, alludes to the New Testament’s Romans 6.

And death shall have no dominion.

Dead men naked they shall be one

With the man in the wind and the west moon;

When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,

They shall have stars at elbow and foot;

Though they go mad they shall be sane,

Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;

Though lovers be lost love shall not;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

Under the windings of the sea

They lying long shall not die windily;

Twisting on racks when sinews give way,

Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;

Faith in their hands shall snap in two,

And the unicorn evils run them through;

Split all ends up they shan’t crack;

And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.

No more may gulls cry at their ears

Or waves break loud on the seashore;

Where blew a flower may a flower no more

Lift its head to the blows of the rain;

Through they be mad and dead as nails,

Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;

Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,

And death shall have no dominion.


 By Christina Rossetti

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In this poem by mid 1800s English poet Christina Rossetti, gets ahead of her own death and invites her loved ones to remember her, but only if they allow the memories to bring a smile.

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.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann’d:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Crossing the Bar

By Alfred Lord Tennyson


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Here Tennyson uses the popular death metaphor of a ship sailing out to sea.

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have cross’d the bar

Inarticulate Grief

By Richard Aldington

Richard Aldington was mates wit other, more well-known poets including T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, W. B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound. This poem is about opening yourself up to the experience of grief rather than trying to shut it out.

Let the sea beat its thin torn hands

In anguish against the shore,

Let it moan

Between headland and cliff;

Let the sea shriek out its agony

Across waste sands and marshes,

And clutch great ships,

Tearing them plate from steel plate

In reckless anger;

Let it break the white bulwarks

Of harbour and city;

Let it sob and scream and laugh

In a sharp fury,

With white salt tears

Wet on its writhen face;

Ah! let the sea still be mad

And crash in madness among the shaking rocks—

For the sea is the cry of our sorrow.

A Meeting

By Edith Wharton

In this poem, Edith speaks about the adventure of death as an adventure shared by two people. Death is an experience that connects people.

On a sheer peak of joy we meet;

Below us hums the abyss;

Death either way allures our feet

If we take one step amiss.

One moment let us drink the blue

Transcendent air together—

Then down where the same old work’s to do

In the same dull daily weather.

We may not wait . . . yet look below!

How part? On this keen ridge

But one may pass. They call you—go!

My life shall be your bridge.


By Winifred Mary Letts

Winifred Letts trained worked in army camps during World War I. This experience inspired some of her poetry, including this popular one that speaks about appreciating life because that’s what the dead would want.

Because you live, though out of sight and reach,

I will, so help me God, live bravely too,

Taking the road with laughter and gay speech,

Alert, intent to give life all its due.

I will delight my soul with many things,

The humours of the street and books and plays,

Great rocks and waves winnowed by seagulls’ wings,

Star-jewelled Winter nights, gold harvest days.

I will for your sake praise what I have missed,

The sweet content of long-united lives,

The sunrise joy of lovers who have kissed,

Children with flower-faces, happy wives.

And last I will praise Death who gives anew

Brave life adventurous and love—and you.

Under the Harvest Moon

By Carl Sandburg

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Sandburg in this poem speaks of death as if he/she is an old friend comforting you through to the next stage of existence.

Under the harvest moon, When the soft silver

Drips shimmering

Over the garden nights,

Death, the grey mocker,

Comes and whispers to you

As a beautiful friend

Who remembers.

Under the summer roses

When the flagrant crimson

Lurks in the dusk

Of the wild red leaves,

Love, with little hands,

Comes and touches you

With a thousand memories,

And asks you

Beautiful, unanswerable questions.