The right words may be hard to find when you want to say goodbye. You may want to request that a special poem be read at your funeral, or your loved ones may be looking for the perfect words to guide them through the hard times ahead.
Just looking through our selection of poetry may help you express what you can’t put into words yourself. Or have a listen to archived broadcasts of Radio 4’s programme “Poetry Please”, which regularly presents listeners’ favourite poems. See Radio 4 Poetry Please and books from the series.
Feel no Guilt in Laughter (Anon)
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care.
Feel no sorrow in a smile that he’s not here to share.
You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to.
He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do
So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared,
The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared.
Let memories surround you, a word someone may say
Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day,
That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here,
And fills you with the feeling that he is always near.
For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart
And he will live forever, locked safe within your heart.
If I Should Go Tomorrow (Anon)
If I should go tomorrow it would never be goodbye,
For I have left my heart with you, so don’t you ever cry.
The love that’s deep within me shall reach you from the stars,
You’ll feel it from the heavens, and it will heal the scars.
I Must Down to the Seas
This verse was read at the funeral of my dear Major-General friend, who started his forces life in the navy and ever loved the sea. It made us smile.
John Masefield, Poet Laureate (1878 – 1967)
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
The Dash Poem
Several friends tell me this poem has become a tradition in their families. It’s true that it’s not the length of a life that matters, but how it is lived. Here’s an extract:
I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
The poem is still in copyright, so contact TheDashPoem for the full version and permission to print.
Idyll (Siegfried Sassoon)
In the grey summer garden I shall find you
With day-break and the morning hills behind you.
There will be rain-wet roses; stir of wings;
And down the wood a thrush that wakes and sings.
Not from the past you’ll come, but from that deep
Where beauty murmurs to the soul asleep:
And I shall know the sense of life re-born
From dreams into the mystery of morn
Where gloom and brightness meet. And standing there
Till that calm song is done, at last we’ll share
The league-spread, quiring symphonies that are
Joy in the world, and peace, and dawn’s one star.
When I die I want your hands on my eyes (Pablo Neruda)
When I die I want your hands on my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more time
to feel the smoothness that changed my destiny.
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want for your ears to go on hearing the wind,
for you to smell the sea that we loved together
and for you to go on walking the sand where we walked.
I want for what I love to go on living
and as for you I loved you and sang you above everything,
for that, go on flowering, flowery one,
so that you reach all that my love orders for you,
so that my shadow passes through your hair,
so that they know by this the reason for my song.