Trees can represent a lot of things. But many people associate them with family. The idea that strong roots can produce a strong trunk and branches is often used as a metaphor for family.
Planting a tree to honor someone who has passed away is a lovely idea. And with many people looking for alternative memorial service ideas, it may increase in popularity.
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After losing someone, it can be difficult to know what to say when speaking at a memorial service or funeral. There often aren’t enough words to express what you feel. But take solace in the fact that you aren’t the only person who has felt this way.
(For more memorial ideas and additional guidance through the whole process of losing a loved one, check out our post-loss checklist.)
Whether you're planting a tree as part of a memorial service or funeral, here are some poems that may be appropriate. Some of the poems are about planting trees as memorials, while others are more general. Regardless, we hope you find this list helpful as you plan the memorial service for your loved one.
COVID-19 tip: If you're speaking at a virtual or live streamed memorial service 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 microphones and other audio equipment, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full speaking schedule.
Poems for the Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony or Dedication
As you dedicate the tree to the memory of your loved one, consider reading one of the following poems. Some of them were written by famous, published poets from across the centuries. Others were written by poets who share their work online. Regardless, all are appropriate for honoring the memory of your loved one.
1. "Plant a Tree" by David H. Wright
In this poem, the author suggests that his loved ones plant a tree in his honor after he dies. He asks that the tree grow on a lonely highway where the sight of it can bring unexpected joy.
2. "The Family Tree" by Unknown Author
Although this poem is not about a physical tree, it would be the perfect poem to read at a tree-planting ceremony.
In this poem, the speaker asks their loved ones to continue laughing, loving, and living. It can be a reminder to those in attendance that sadness is not the only way to celebrate someone who has died.
3. "Tree of Life Poem" by Bonnie Mohe
One can almost imagine hearing the advice in this poem from a relative. In the poem, the speaker gives specific advice on how to live a good life. Because of the poem's message, this would be a great poem to read at a tree-planting memorial ceremony.
4. "A Limb has Fallen from the Family Tree . . . "by Unknown Author
It makes sense that so many poems about death use tree imagery. Trees remind us of connections. In this poem, the family has suffered a loss of a loved one.
The speaker in this poem asks others to "continue my heritage." Planting a tree in honor of a loved one is the perfect way to do this.
5. "What Makes a Dad" by Unknown Author
A poet shares characteristics that make fathers wonderful. Dads are sometimes described as having the "strength of a mountain" and the "majesty of a tree."
This is a beautiful way to describe a dad. Planting a tree and then reading this poem could be an excellent way to celebrate your father.
6. "The Funeral Poem" by Glen Stewart Coles
This poem would be the perfect choice to read at the funeral of a nature lover. In it, the speaker says, "If I should die in autumn, the leaves will cover me. I lie in restful peacefulness beneath the maple tree."
7. "I Carry Your Heart With Me" by e.e. cummings
This poem doesn't reference a tree, but it speaks of the eternal nature of love. You are showing your eternal love for the deceased by planting a tree.
8. "The Oak" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The reader is encouraged to live like "yon Oak" in this poem by Tennyson. The oak shows strength and pride no matter the age. It would be a fitting tribute to read at the tree-planting ceremony for someone who embodied these values.
9. "When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou
Angelou compares a great tree falling to the death of an important person in our lives.
Consider this stanza: “When great souls die/the air around us becomes/ light, rare, sterile./ We breathe, briefly./Our eyes, briefly,/see with/a hurtful clarity./Our memory, suddenly sharpened,/examines,/gnaws on kind words/unsaid,/promised walks/never taken.” It is a reminder of how different our lives can feel after losing someone close to us.
10. "Family Tree" by Linda Pastan
This poem is less traditional, and it’s message less overt. But it would be a beautiful poem to keep people thinking about the deceased after the ceremony has ended.
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Poems to Give With Tree Seedlings
One of the most beautiful tributes we can give our loved one is a gift that will live for generations. Some families pass out saplings to the mourners at the service for the deceased. The guests are asked to find a special place to plant the sapling in honor of the person who died.
Many times, these seedlings are wrapped in burlap with a poem attached. One of these poems would be appropriate to share on that card.
11. "There's a Very Special Garden . . .. " by Unknown Author
This is one of the more common poems used for memorials. It equates a tree with memory. And encourages the listener to continue helping the tree to grow by recalling memories. Attaching this poem to a sapling would provide a physical item to help recall those memories.
12. "Don't Weep at My Grave . . . " by Unknown Author
If your loved one enjoyed being in nature, consider including this poem. In it, the speaker asks those mourning not to weep.
Instead, the reader is asked to think about the deceased enjoying nature. The poem describes them dancing with a butterfly and singing in the sunshine.
13. "Birches" by Robert Frosts
Robert Frost, one of America's beloved poets, wrote "Birches." In it, the speaker wishes that heaven could be reached by climbing the limbs of the birch tree.
14. "Song of the Trees" by Mary Colborne-Veel
Trees "bear us company in life and death." One only has to visit a cemetery to realize that this sentiment is very true. The trees "wave mournful boughs above the grave of men." Even though the tone is somewhat melancholy in may be appropriate for your needs.
15. "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman
It is comforting knowing that the people we love never truly leave us. They are with us in our thoughts and memories.
Planting a tree is the perfect symbol of everlasting love. You can visit it whenever you need to and be reminded of your loved one.
16. "Words Seem so Feeble" John Mark Green
If there aren't any words to describe how you feel, why even try to form them? Let this poem speak for you.
17. "Our Family Chain" by Unknown Author
This poem does not mention trees, but it does have a lovely message. The speaker of the poem is someone who has lost a family member.
This death has caused the family chain to break. The only consolation is that the chain will be repaired when the family meets in the afterlife.
18. "Life Well Lived" by Unknown Author
This poem describes a life well lived as a legacy. Continue your loved one's legacy by planting a tree in their honor. And take it one step further and ask others to plant trees as well.
Providing the saplings for them can make that request much easier. It can be comforting to know that trees have been planted in memory of your loved one.
19. "Heaven Will Hold You" by Unknown Author
If you lost your child, hopefully, this poem will provide you some peace. Attach it to seedlings and give them out to those who attend the services.
20. "Speak Their Name" by Unknown Author
If you have lost someone, one of your biggest fears may be that others will forget your loved one. Asking the people who attend the funeral to plant a tree to honor the person you lost can help them be remembered.
They can think of the deceased when they plant the tree. And as they see the tree grow and mature they’ll be reminded of your loved one.
Plant the Tree with the Perfect Poem
Planting a tree is a beautiful way to remember someone you’ve lost. It provides a tangible reminder of someone important to you. You’ll be able to return to visit the tree as it grows. And it’s good for the environment, too. Planting a tree ensures that your loved one’s legacy will continue.