Funeral readings – Religious texts

Sorted alphabetically by title or first line.


A stoic faces his end
When death overtakes thee how wouldst thou be found occupied? For myself, if the choice were vouchsafed, I would like to be found engaged in some high and noble enterprise. If nought so lofty be my task, at least let me be found raising the fallen in myself, wiser in my relation to the things of sense, working out a true peace of mind.Enough if then I can hold my hands to God and say, “I have not neglected the talents thou gavest me whereby to undertsand thy Rule: I have not dishonoured thee: I have laid nothing to thy charge: I have not murmured or repined. For the life thou gavest me I thank thee: the time during which I enjoyed the use of what thou didst lend me is enough. Take it back and give it to another. It was always thine.”If a man departs in such a mind, is it not enough? What life could be nobler; what end happier than his?
Epictetus, Greek Stoic philosopher (ca 55 – ca 135)


Before the sublime mystery of life and spirit
Before the sublime mystery of life and spirit, the mystery of infinite space and endless time, we stand in reverent awe…This much we know: we are at one phase of the immortality of life.The mighty stream of life flows on, and, in this mighty stream, we too flow on… not lost… but each eternally significant.For this I feel: The spirit never betrays the person who trusts it. Physical life may be defeated but life goes on; character survives, goodness lives and love is immortal.
Colonel Robert G Ingersoll, American political leader and orator (1833 – 1899)



Dear parents
I did not die young. I lived my span of life within your body and within your love. There are many that have lived long lives and have not been loved as me.If you would honour me, then speak my name and number me among your family. If you would honour me, then strive to live in love, for in that love I now live.Do not doubt that we will meet again. Until that happy day I will be with God and wait for you.



Footprints in the sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamt that he was walking along a beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed the scenes of his life. For each scene he noticed not one, but two sets of footprints in the sand.He understood immediately that one belonged to him and the other to the Lord. But then he noticed a curious thing. At the lowest and saddest times in his life there was only one set of footprints.This bothered him and so he asked the Lord: “How come that during the most difficult times in my life, the very times when I needed you, you left me on my own?”Then the Lord replied: “My friend, during your trials and sufferings when you see only one set of footprints, those footprints are mine. It was then that I carried you.”




I am standing upon that foreshore
I am standing upon that foreshore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails in the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.Then someone at my side says, “There! She’s gone!” “Gone where?” “Gone from my sight, that’s all.” She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as ever she was when she left my side; just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.And just at that moment when someone at my side says “There! She’s gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”
Attributed to Henry Van Dyke, American clergyman, educator and author (1852 – 1933)








From Pilgrim’s Progress
Then he said “I am going to my Father’s and though with difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at, to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me, that I have fought his battles who will now be my Rewarder.”When the day that he must go hence was come, many accompanied him to the riverside, into which as he went he said, “Death where is thy sting?” and as he went down deeper, he said “Grave, where is thy victory?” So he passed over, and the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.
John Bunyan, writer and preacher (1628 – 1688)

From Pilgrim’s Progress
I see myself now at the end of my journey, my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and face that was spit upon for me.I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself.I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too.His name to me has been as a civet-box; yea, sweeter than all perfume. His voice has been most sweet; and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun. His word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. ‘He has held me, and hath kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way.’Glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots, with trumpeters and pipers, with singers and players on stringed instruments, to welcome the Pilgrims as they went up, and followed one another in at the beautiful gate of the city.
John Bunyan, writer and preacher (1628 – 1688)
Note: read at the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 2002.



A reflection on an autumn day
I took up a handful of grain and let it slip flowing through my fingers, and I said to myself: This is what it is all about. There is no longer any room for pretence. At harvest time the essence is revealed – the straw and chaff are set aside, they have done their job.The grain alone matters – sacks of pure gold.So it is when a person dies the essence of that person is revealed. At the moment of death a person’s character stands out happy for the person who has forged it well over the years. Then it will not be the great achievement that will matter, nor, how much money or possessions a person has amassed. These like the straw and the chaff, will be left behind. It is what he has made of himself that will matter. Death can take away from us what we have, but it cannot rob us of who we are.


Survival after death
… I do not pretend to offer consolation; in one very real sense there is no consolation to offer. The blow, the double blow, has fallen, and the shock which threatens the very citadel of life can be softened by nothing that I or perhaps any other can do or utter.Who can measure the pain of separation? Who can deny that, normally at least, death means separation? And that between the living and the dead there lies an impassable gulf which no longing and no love is able to bridge? For this there is no remedy; we must bear it as we may; but to me it seems that in many cases the sorrow caused by death is due to something more and other than the cause of separaion. It is due perhaps to an unacknowledged feeling that the separation is unending.Now if this be the settled conviction of the mourner, there is nothing more to be said. But if this is not the case, if the conviction be the other way, if the certainty or even the possibility of a future life be admitted, then we know that there is something wrong if the agonies of bereavement are more than those which should follow on a severance which, though complete, is temporary.For myself, I entertain no doubt whatever about a future life. I deem it at least as certain as any of the hundred-and-one truths of the frame-work of the world, as I conceive the world. I am as sure that those I love and have lost are living to-day, as I am yesterday they were fighting heroically in the trenches. The bitterness lies not in the thought that they are really dead, still less in the thought that I have parted with them forever; for I think neither of these things. The bitterness lies in the thought that until I die I shall never again see them smile or hear their voices. The pain is indeed hard to bear, too hard it sometimes seems for human strength. Yet measured on the true scale of things it is but brief; death cannot long cheat us of love…
Earl Balfour, Conservative politican and Prime Minister (1848 – 1930)
Note: an extract from a letter to Lady Desborough on the death of her two elder sons killed in the Great War.


The ship
What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore, a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says: “She is gone.”Gone! where? Gone from my sight – that is all. She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, “she is gone” there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout: “There she comes!” and that is dying.
Attributed to Bishop Charles Henry Brent, American Missionary Bishop (1862 – 1926)




We struggle against death with all our force
We struggle against death with all our force, for it is our fundamental duty as living creatures to do so. But when, by virtue of the state of things, death comes, we experience that paradox of faith that causes us to abandon the struggle and affirm death as part of a greater plan for the universe as a whole.To love life so much, and to trust it so completely that we can affirm it in its final act… this is an attitude that can calm and fortify us.The end is to love extravagantly the life that is greater than any one of us, seeing our own death as a physically necessary passage towards union with a greater wholeness.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French priest and philosopher (1881 – 1955)




Lasting Post’s collection of readings for funerals.