What is it about nature the inspires so much poetry? Perhaps poets are inspired by the eternal qualities of nature. After all, the mountain peaks that we climb today will be climbed by our great-grandchildren and their great-grandchildren.
(Choosing funeral poems is just one of the difficult tasks you might be undertaking for the first time if you've lost a loved one. Our post-loss checklist can help you understand what to do next.)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Garden Funeral Poems for Grandma or Mom
- Garden Funeral Poems for Grandpa or Dad
- Funeral Poems for Other Garden Lovers
- What Was Your Loved One’s Favorite Poem?
Maybe poets are inspired by the gracefulness of nature. Anyone who has seen a field of waving wheat moving rhythmically in a spring wind may feel encouraged to try to describe it in verse. Of course, poets are inspired by nature’s beauty. The colors, the smells, and the sounds have awed people since the beginning of time.
Besides celebrating the earth, many of these nature poems remind us of our loved ones. They tell us about grandma’s passion for flowers or remind us of fishing in grandpa’s pond. They remind us of trips that we took with our parents to the Rocky Mountains or catching lightning bugs with a favorite cousin on a summer night. It’s these connections that we make while spending time outside that makes nature poetry perfect choices for funerals.
Here are some examples of nature funeral poems to consider for your loved one’s end-of-life services. While some of the poems celebrate nature, many of them draw a connection between life and death. While some of these poems are “pretty,” others may be raw with emotion.
COVID-19 tip: If you're officiating a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share your poems with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team, make sure you have the right mics and speakers, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full poems.
Garden Funeral Poems for Grandma or Mom
Can you name a flower that reminds you of your mom or grandma? Many people can. Perhaps your mom or grandma was known for growing particular flowers, or maybe she merely enjoyed the scent of one specific bloom.
Here are some garden or flower poems that may make you think of that special woman in your life.
1. “The Gardener” by Patricia Hooper
The speaker in this poem reflects how her perennials will “all sleep and return.” She, on the other hand, a lover of gardens, is different than her favorite flowers. When she sleeps, she will not return.
2. “cosmos, late blooming” by D. A. Powell
D.A. Powell is a modern, American poet who has instructed a new generation of writers at Harvard, Columbia, and the University of San Francisco.
3. “Dedication for a Plot of Ground” by William Carlos Williams
While some would think that one would have a formal dedication for a plot of ground for a garden, this plot of land is for a different purpose. This poem about a young woman who survived many struggles in life until she “grubbed this earth with her own hands, domineered over this grass plot.”
4. “Beach Roses” by Mark Doty
This poem seems to speak about the blurred line between life and death. The last stanza reads, “And we talk as if death were a line to be crossed. Look at them, the white roses. Tell me where they end.” Even though rough winds destroyed the roses, they still show beauty when floating along with the ocean’s foam.
5. “Weeds and Peonies” by Donald Hall
This poem seems to be written in the voice of a husband who has lost his wife, who was a lover of peonies. He brings one of the “magnanimous blossoms indoors and floats it in a glass bowl, as you used to do.”
6. “Rain Light by W.S. Merwin
You may be nervous about speaking at a funeral for a loved one. If this is the case, you may find it easier to read a poem at the funeral. In this poem, a mom reassures her child that he or she will be all right after she is gone. She says that her child will know what to do, just as the flowers seem to know what to do after a long winter.
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Garden Funeral Poems for Grandpa or Dad
Perhaps it was dad or grandpa who loved working in the garden or nature. Here are some poems for the patriarch of your family (but to be fair most can be used for a matriarch, too.)
7. “Shall We Gather at the River” by Robert Lowry
While this is not a garden poem, this poem uses nature imagery to symbolize something spiritual. Robert Lowry wrote these lyrics for his spiritual song that eventually became a favorite across America. Even though it is a familiar hymn at funerals, reading it as a poem places focus on the moving words instead of the tune of the song.
8. “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost
When it comes to nature poetry, no one can beat Robert Frost. This melancholy poem discusses the eventual decay that happens to all things in nature.
9. “The Grasses” by Rumi
If you are planning a memorial service for an agnostic, you may consider using this poem. It speaks about the presence of a spirit but describes the driver of the world as “universal intelligence.”
10. “i thank you God for most this amazing” by e.e. cummings
Whether the speaker of this poem was figuratively or literally dead is up for interpretation, but he or she feels alive again after experiencing a beautiful day in nature. e.e. cummings was known for playing with language, and he used capitalization to evoke meaning in his poetry.
11. “Evening” by Hilda Doolittle
This poem describes what happens to hepaticas at night, as they shut down to protect themselves. Although there is no mention of human death in this poem, we know that hepaticas reappear in the morning. This poem may be about the everlastingness of the human spirit.
12. “The Pasture” by Robert Frost
In this poem, a person tries to persuade another to accompany him on a walk in the pasture. He repeats several times, “I shan’t be gone long. You come too.” The poem speaks of a life long shared and the peacefulness of nature.
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Funeral Poems for Other Garden Lovers
Garden and nature poems are prevalent. You may use them as a memorial tree planting poem, or a funeral held in a garden. You may also choose hymns with garden or flower imagery for your loved one’s end of life services, such as “In the Garden.”
13. “The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William Carlos Williams
This poem describes how a widow feels when seeing beloved trees bloom in the spring after her husband died. She says she wants “to go there and fall into those flowers and sink into the marsh near them.” Although spring is usually a time of hope and rebirth, it may be a time of despair for someone in mourning.
14. “The Lilacs” by Richard Wilbur
You need to know that Richard Wilbur uses a lot of war imagery in his poem. For Wilbur, he describes a lilac as having “bullet-shaped buds,” and mentions how the lilacs are lined up like soldiers. One wonders if he was writing about irises instead of lilacs.
15. “The Trees” by Philip Larkin
In this poem, Philip Larkin argues that trees die during the winter, and when they awake in the spring, “their greenness is a kind of grief.” This poem reminds us of how life is finite, and even though the trees return, they first suffer loss.
16. “Psalm 23” from the Bible
This Psalm has brought comfort to people all over the world. It is the ultimate “garden poem” because it describes the peace one feels in green pastures near still waters. It is often used as a death-bed reading, but it can give peace to those in mourning as well.
17. “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” Walt Whitman
Even though this poem doesn’t mention the 16th president, it was written for Abraham Lincoln. Walt Whitman wrote other verses for the assassinated president as well, including “O Captain! My Captain!”
18. “The Garden” by Helen Hoyt
We are not sure who Helen Hoyt intended to describe as missing in this poem about a garden. Perhaps it is a poem about feeling absent from God. Maybe the person missing is a loved one. Regardless, this poem could be an appropriate choice for a funeral program of a garden lover.
What Was Your Loved One’s Favorite Poem?
The poem that you read at your loved one’s funeral doesn’t have to be full of symbolism and death imagery. You can simply read a poem that describes nature’s beauty because you think that your loved one would have liked it. You can also read a poem that the deceased enjoyed-- whether it is about flowers or death or rock and roll. And if your loved one didn’t enjoy poetry, consider using the lyrics to songs.
When it comes to picking a poem for a funeral, don’t feel as if it needs to be one that would be commonly found on a memorial card. Pick something that reflects the personality of the deceased. In fact, the whole funeral can be a reflection of the person who died. If your loved one would want to hear AC/DC at his funeral, consider playing it. If the deceased would have wanted a funny eulogy, write one for him.
If you're looking for more poems, read our guide on the best deepest sympathy and condolence poems.