Family reunions are a time to catch up, come together, and remember the good times. They’re also an opportunity for grieving and reflection, especially if there has been a recent loss in the family.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Uplifting Family Reunion Memorial or Tribute Poems
- Sad Poems for a Family Reunion Memorial or Tribute
Honoring loved ones during a family reunion allows everyone to get the support and comfort they need to heal. Having close friends and family while you remember someone’s life reminds you that you’re not alone during this difficult time.
Because putting memories and feelings into words is difficult, it’s sometimes helpful to borrow from the masters. These 20+ short poems are perfect for a family reunion or memorial, and they’re some of the many creative ways to honor someone when they’re gone.
Uplifting Family Reunion Memorial or Tribute Poems
Not all memorial poems are meant to be sad. These poems and tributes below are a reminder of togetherness, love, and support. They might even put a smile on your face as you look towards a brighter tomorrow.
1. "Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo
This 2019 U.S. poet laureate paints a picture of a family at a kitchen table. Though we often look for big occasions to mark the things that really matter, Harjo argues the world really “begins at a kitchen table.” It’s at this table, together with family and friends, where we make the best memories to last a lifetime.
2. “Speaking of the future, Hamlet” by Mary Jo Bang
Mary Jo Bang alludes to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in this poem, sympathetic to his plight as he’s trapped in a story he can’t escape. We all exist in this same narrative, and to “speak of the future” is to realize that “someday this will be over.” All we can do is live together in the here and now.
3. “As for the Heart” by Erin Belieu
Erin Belieu ponders her “lastness” in this poem. She wonders when she’ll buy her last coat, when’s the last time she’ll speak to her son, and when’s the last time she’ll feel the rain. Still, as she ages, the world seems to become a sweeter, more welcoming place.
4. “Fire Gotten Brighter” by Christopher Gilbert
When someone is remembered, their fire gets brighter. It is in our memories that we remember those that mattered most to us. Though we might not be with the ones we love, we can still very much feel their warmth.
5. “For Keeps” by Joy Harjo
Each day offers something new if you just trust in your ancestors and your family. We are all part of this great togetherness, something Harjo refers to as a “mystery” that’s both everlasting and eternal. Together, as a family, we’ll lay under the stars.
6. “Pictures of Memory” by Alice Cary
We all have a wall full of memories, and each picture gives us something new to remember. Though some of these memories might seem mundane, they remind us what really matters most—the ones we love and care for.
7. “Mozart Songbook” by Joan Larkin
Our close family and friends often unlock passions and interests that we don’t identify until after they're gone. When we’re young, this is our “whole faith” and what makes us discover our true selves.
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8. “The Amaranth” by Vachel Lindsay
Though times are difficult now, brightness is always on the horizon. Vachel Lindsay writes, “Friends, I will not cease hoping through you weep.” There is still hope for goodness and happiness to rise to see another day.
9. “William and Emily” by Edgar Lee Masters
True love, whether between lovers or family, never dies. Together, you fade to death, but it’s not anything to be feared. As Edgar Lee Masters describes, it’s simply like passing “from the familiar room” into another.
10. "Life" by Joe Brainard
Life is full of both questions and answers, argues the author of “Life.” In reality, none of these answers help. We all must face death, and life is horribly short. Still, this isn’t something to fear. We must use the time we have being ourselves and enjoying the ones we love.
Sad Poems for a Family Reunion Memorial or Tribute
Another family reunion idea is to make one portion of the event a tribute or memorial to those you’ve lost. These sad poems are a powerful form of healing in themselves, and they fill in the gaps in emotions that are hard to put into your own words.
11. “Legacy" by Rhonda M. Ward
Defining what legacy truly means is something easier said than done. In “Legacy,” Ward explains what it’s like to learn of the passing of a loved one. This poem grapples with the concept of remembrance and how we sometimes honor those we didn’t know all that well just to make their lives meaningful even in death.
12. “My Mother, My Mother” by Luther Hughes
The glowing warmth of a mother’s love can never go away. Hughes describes his mom throughout his life, emphasizing how she was always there for him. Though she might leave this earth one day, he will never be without her love.
13. “The Book of Lamenting” by Lory Bedikan
Change is one of the most significant parts of life. We start by lamenting or mourning the end of a warm day. Everything that lives must die, and “nothing that runs can stay the same.” It is this eternal truth that is really the book of lamenting.
14. “Lullaby (with Exit Sign)” by Hadara Bar-Nadav
A lullaby is something soothing. When juxtaposed with an exit sign, we realize the jarring image Hadara Bar-Nadav is creating with this poem. All of life has exit signs, and we all must make our exit at some point. Still, there is a lullaby in the “shattered shadows” where we all find comfort.
15. “Rooms Remembered” by Lare-Anne Bosselaar
Memory often ties with feelings, but Lare-Anne Bosselaar wants readers to associate memories with places where they belong. A room full of happy smiles, a kitchen with holiday traditions, these are the spaces that define us.
16. “Remnants” by Jim Handlin
What’s left when we’re gone? According to Handlin, all we leave behind are things that don’t really matter. They’ll auction the estate, the rings, and the silver tea set. These things will be gone, but the memories remain.
17. “Meanwhile the elephants” by Mark Wagenaar
It’s important to keep moving forward after loss in order to prevent grief from taking over your life. In “Meanwhile the elephants,” someone reminds the narrator that even the elephants retired after the circus closed. The poem read, “Darling, I have my dead, and I have let them go.”
18. “On the Death of Her Father” by Lynley Edmeades
For a poem that recognizes what it means to grieve, Edmeades perfectly captures the feeling of time passing with no beginning or end. She says it best, writing, “Some things were right and some were not.” Sometimes grief really is that simple.
19. “Loss” by Winifred M. Letts
Loss is a complicated thing. When you lose someone special, you lose more than that relationship. Winifred M. Letts describes this as losing both her “sun and moon.” She lost the happiness and joy in life, and she’s not sure how she’ll get it back.
20. "On the Death of Anne Brontë" by Charlotte Brontë
After losing a sister, Charlotte Brontë describes the feeling of loss as something that must be carried against the odds. While she has lost “the darling of [her] life,” she also thanks God for having such a beloved sister in the first place.
Come Together Through Poetry
Poetry weaves into words complex thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Though we can’t always put these thoughts into the world ourselves, these poets above span the breadth of experience to share their own insights as they apply to us all.
Whether you’re looking for poetry for a memorial table or something to read at a family reunion, there’s a poet for each person and situation. Poetry has long been used as a way to honor and remember loved ones. You don’t need any formal poetry, writing, or literature experience to recognize the truth and emotion in these works above.