Public speaking can be terrifying for many of us.

Now think about speaking at a celebration of life where grief and emotions are heightened and it can get more intimidating. This is one event you just don’t want to say the wrong thing at.

Even if you have no problem speaking in front of an audience, sometimes you just can’t find the words to express your loss. Poetry is a great option when you are struggling to find the right words for a eulogy or a memorial reading.

Poems are a great way to say goodbye and remember a loved one. They can beautifully express our thoughts and feelings for us and may even do it better than if we tried to write out our own thoughts.

To help you find some inspiration, we’ve put together 17 poems that you may like to include in your ceremony or in a printed program. Some of these poems are elegant memorials to those who have died, others grapple with the universal experience of death and a few even have a touch of humour. There’s a good chance that whatever tone you wish to create, you will find something in this list that can be used in your celebration of life.

And just know that even if you have practiced your reading many times before the event – we do recommend practicing what you want to say or read a few times at least – if you aren’t able to speak these words when it comes to the day of the event do not worry. Here at Red Bird, our celebrants are on hand to step in and speak your words for you. We want you to know that all emotions are welcome and we are with you at every step so that you can have a meaningful ceremony and your chosen words do get shared.

1. Forget Me Not by Linda Shelburn Reagan

Forget me not, for I am there

In the beat of your heart, On the wing of your prayer. 

Forgive me my parting and leaving you thus,

A joyous reunion is waiting for us! 

Continue to strive toward your goal and be brave.

Know that my love didn't stop at the grave. 

My spirit is with you through good times and bad.

I share all the joys and the sorrows you've had. 

Feel my presence within your next breath

And realize there's no distance in death. 

Ask for my help and I'll answer your call.

Reach for my hand when you stumble and fall. 

Run the last mile with a smile on your face.

My arms will be waiting when you finish the race. 

Always remember, my love is right there

In the beat of your heart, On the wing of your prayer. 

 

2. A Remarkable Life by Author Unknown

A remarkable life

That came to an end

He died as he lived

Everyone’s friend.

In our hearts a memory 

Will always be kept,

Of one we loved

And will never forget.

 

3. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost 

Nature's first green is gold, 

Her hardest hue to hold.

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. 

 

4. Let Me Go by Christina Rossetti

When I come to the end of the road

And the sun has set for me

I want no rites in a gloom filled room

Why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little, but not for long

And not with your head bowed low

Remember the love that once we shared

Miss me, but let me go.

For this is a journey we all must take

And each must go alone.

It’s all part of the master plan

A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick at heart

Go the friends we know.

Bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.

Miss me, but let me go.

 

5. Crossing the Bar by Lord Alfred Tennyson

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 crost the bar.

6. Love and Go On by David Harkins 

You can shed tears that she is gone,

or you can smile because she has lived. 

You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, 

or you can open your eyes and see all she's left. 

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her, 

or you can be full of the love you shared. 

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, 

or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. 

You can remember her only that she is gone, 

or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. 

You can cry and close your mind, 

be empty and turn your back. 

Or you can do what she'd want: 

smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
 
 

7. We Remember Him by Sylven Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer (can be changed to any gendered pronoun)

When we are weary and in need of strength,

When we are lost and sick at heart,

We remember him.

When we have a joy we crave to share

When we have decisions that are difficult to make

When we have achievements that are based on his

We remember him.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring,

We remember him.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,

We remember him.

At the rising of the sun and at its setting,

We remember him.

As long as we live, he too will live

For he is now a part of us,

As we remember him.

 

8. Treasure by Paul Irion

A death has occurred and everything is changed. 

We are painfully aware that life can never be the same again, 

That yesterday is over, 

That relationships once rich have ended. 

But there is another way to look upon this truth. 

If life now went on the same, 

Without the presence of the one who had died, 

Wec ould only conclude that the life we remember 

Made no contribution, 

Filled no space, 

Meant nothing. 

The fact that this person left behind a place 

That cannot be filled is a high tribute to this individual. 

Life can be the same after a trinket has been lost, 

But never after the loss of a treasure.

 

9. We Gather to Remember by Doug Manning


We gather to remember

To remember the little things that made a special place in our heart.

To remember those happy times when we laughed 

and those times when our hearts broke as one. 

For who could put a price on memories 

We gather to share the pain 

To hurt when you hurt without presuming that our pain is the same.  

To cry when you cry and not try to hide or avoid our tears. 

For tears are memories in motion. 

We gather to give the gift of grief 

To stand beside you in silence and not be uncomfortable with your tears. 

To allow you the gift of mourning this loss and not lose patience 

For grief is nature’s way of healing a broken heart

 

10. The Magic of a Mother's Touch (Could be changed to a “Nan or Grandma’s touch”) 

There's magic in a Mother's touch, and sunshine in her smile. 

There's love in everything she does to make our lives worthwhile. 

We can find both hope and courage Just by looking in her eyes. 

Her laughter is a source of joy, her works are warm and wise. 

There is a kindness and compassion to be found in her embrace, 

And we see the light of heaven shining from a Mother's face.

 

11. Gone From My Sight by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,

spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts

for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck

of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

 

Then, someone at my side says, "There, she is gone"

 

Gone where?

 

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,

hull and spar as she was when she left myside.

And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

 

Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.

And, just at the moment when someone says, "There, she is gone,"

there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices

ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.

 

12. Look For Me in Rainbows by Vicki Brown

Time for me to go now 

I won’t say goodbye

Look for me in rainbows 

Way up in the sky
 
In the morning sunrise

When all the world is new

Just look for me and love me

As you know I loved you

It won’t be forever 

The day will come and then 

My loving arms will hold you 

When we meet again

Time for us to part now

We won’t say goodbye 

Look for me in rainbows 

Shining in the sky


13. Look to This Day  (Sanskrit proverb)

Look to this day

For it is life,

The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all

The realities and verities of existence,

The bliss of growth,

The splendor of action,

The glory of power –

 

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision.

But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream

Of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

 

Look well, therefore, to this day.

 

14. Immortality by Hugh Robert Orr 

They are not dead who live 

In hearts they leave behind. 

In those whom they have blessed 

They live a life again, 

And shall live through the years 

Eternal life, and grow 

Each day more beautiful 

As time declares their good, 

Forgets the rest, and proves 

Their immortality.

 

15. The Parting Glass (Selection from the Scottish Traditional Song)

Of all the money e'er I had,

I spent it in good company.

And all the harm I've ever done,

Alas! it was to none but me.

And all I've done for want of wit

To mem'ry now I can't recall

So fill to me the parting glass

Good night and joy be with you all. 
 
Oh, all the comrades e'er I had,

Are sorry for my going away,

And all the sweethearts e'er I had,

They'd wish me one more day to stay,

But since it falls unto my lot,

That I should rise and you should not,

I'll gently rise and softly call,

Good night and joy be with you all. 
 

16. Peace of the Beach by Martha Vashti Pearson

The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand.

The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers on the land.  

The music stops, yet echoes on in sweet, soulful refrains.  

For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.

 

17. A Fallen Limb(Author Unknown)

A limb has fallen from the Family Tree

I keep hearing a voice that says, “Grieve not for me.”

Remember the best times, the laughter, the song,

The good life I lived while I was strong.

Continue my heritage, I’m counting on you

Keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through

My mind is at ease, my soul is at rest

Remembering all, how I truly was blessed

Continue traditions, no matter how small 

Go on with your life, don’t worry about falls

I miss you dearly, so keep up your chin

Until the day comes we’re together again