Writing your own poem

Sometimes a poem or reading just doesn’t express exactly what you would like to say. However, there is nothing to stop you taking an existing poem* and adapting it slightly, or using it as the framework for a completely new poem.  For example, the poem A Mother’s Touch has the following lines:

” … we see the light of heaven / Shining from a mother’s face.”

For a non-religious funeral, you might wish to change that to:

” … we see the look of love / Shining from a mother’s face.”

*Bear in mind that works by more modern authors may still be in copyright, so permission may be needed to deliver a poem, or print the words in the order of service,  if the author is still alive or if it is less than seventy years from the author’s death.

Here is another adapted poem. First, the original last verse of No Sorrow to Die:

I give a share of my soul to the world where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
Original by Amelia Josephine Burr (1878 – 1968)

Adapted version:
I give a share of my soul to the world where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I must leave undone.
My life on this earth is over, and I come to my time of rest
Think of the ways that you knew me, and remember only my best.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
Based on the poem No Sorrow to Die by Amelia Josephine Burr

You might want to personalise a poem by adding your loved one’s name to it:

“You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what Jim would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
Based on “She is Gone” by David Harkins.

If you feel that you would like to write your own words, which reflect the person’s character and what they meant to you, don’t be put off by whether your poem is “professional enough” – your sincerity will shine through. On the other hand, try not to force a line where it doesn’t really work by choosing words just because they rhyme. (“Your name was Fred / We’re sad you’re dead. / You lived in Alsager / But no one made ya …” and so on. ) If making the lines scan or rhyme seems too hard or is taking too long, why not write some lines of prose instead, as if it is a letter to your loved one?

Examples of personal poems

Here is a poem sent to me by Jennifer, who would like to share her own words more widely. She says:

Since I wrote the following for my father in 2008 I have been asked on occasion if someone else can use it. I am happy for anyone to use it if it fits the occasion. If you would like to put it on your website I hope it brings nothing but solace to a family as it did to ours.

Jennifer Levenson

At the End

We stand as testament to your will
That governs us post mortem still
You wanted that we bring you here
In words unambivalent and clear
To spend your afterlife at ease
Scattered near your favourite trees

At your final resting place
Soon there will be not a trace
Of your ashes on the ground
But your presence will be found
In every scrap of DNA –
Lots of which is here today.

As in your life, your will will out.
That we obeyed you there’s no doubt
You would like we make no fuss
Of how you’ll linger long with us
We loved you more than words can show
But now’s the time – to let you go