Instead of Scripture: Finding a Funeral Reading that Fits

Funeral planning has many aspects to consider, from flowers to music to eulogies to the people you would like to speak.  

Traditional readings are usually pulled from scripture, which is comforting for many people. Often, the person who has died will have a favorite passage or verse that makes it easy to plan that part of the service. Today, however, many people are choosing to customize their funerals in unconventional ways. Even if you like the structure of a traditional religious service, you are not necessarily limited to scripture when choosing the readings. Rather, you can choose a passage from just about any source that is meaningful to you.  

There are many sources of impactful funeral readings.  

  • A passage from a favorite novel may have deep meaning for you. Many people choose passages from books such as Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Dead by James Joyce, or even The Apology of Socrates 
  • Poetry provides a nearly endless source of inspiration. Christina Rossetti’s “Remember,” Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night,” Mary Frye’s “Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep,” Maya Angelou’s “When Great Trees Fall,” and John Donne’s “Death be not Proud” are just a few examples.. Each of these poems is very different, yet all can have significance for different people. The funeral should honor the person who has died and reflect their  sensibilities.  
  • Shakespeare is a good source for meaningful passages. There’s “all the world’s a stage,” “aye, but to die, and go we know not where,” “our revels are now ended,” and “shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” along with a host of other passages that you can pull from either sonnets or plays.  
  • Don’t overlook children’s booksThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry are just a few examples of children’s books with deep and meaningful passages.  
  • Song lyrics can hold special significance. Although not every song is profound, many elicit a powerful emotional response. Be careful in your selection. You’ll want to find a song with lyrics that meant something to the person who died but will not offend the people in attendance.  
  • Original material might be suitable. If the person who died dabbled in writing, it might be appropriate to include some of that writing in the ceremony. On the other hand, there might be a very talented friend or family member who would be honored to write a few words for the occasion.  

Sometimes it’s difficult to know which passages to choose for a funeral, but preplanning your own funeral means you can choose what’s most meaningful to you. When you preplan, you relieve your family of the stress of making decisions and make it easy for them to have the funeral service you would have wanted. Call 510.400.4442 for more information, or visit our Plan Ahead page to request a free planning guide.  

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