Beautiful poems and readings for an autumn funeral

Autumn: a season of beauty and sadness

Every season has its own special beauty. Autumn has many attributes that relate to the cycle of life and death.

Watching nature transform its colours from green to a palette of golden yellow, bright red and warm brown is a delight. Yet, there is also a sadness in all this beauty as it is also a sign of decay and death, and a prelude to a cold, dark winter.

Autumn is an invitation to reflect on the impermanence of things. It’s also a reminder that we are all part of a bigger cycle of living, dying, and nourishing new life. The falling leaves will die but will also nourish new life, which is still hidden and asleep in the darkness of the earth.

Autumn provides a wonderful source of inspiration for funeral ceremonies, and the many poems that are written about autumn can provide consolation in times of grief.

Below, a selection of poems and readings, to use at an autumn funeral, or at any other time of the year.

Humble dazzle

By Gregory Orr, from: How Beautiful The Beloved

This poem is a tribute to life, and how each life is part of a bigger story.

Humble dazzle
Of autumn:
These leaves
On the ground –
Each one page
In the Book,
A poem that says
I lived.
I was
A small part
Of the whole
Story – this
Is my song.
This is my glory.

Fall, leaves, fall

By Emily Brönte

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Source: Poetry Foundation

Autumn leaves, Hampstead Heath

Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

By William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Source: Poetry Foundation

Be One With The Leaf …

By Thich Nhat Hanh

One autumn day I was in the park. absorbed in the contemplations of a very small, beautiful leaf, shaped like a heart and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I asked the leaf whether it was frightened because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling.

The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was completely alive. I worked hard to help nourish the tree, and now much of me is in the tree. I am not limited by this form. I am also the whole tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue nourish the tree. So I don’t worry at all. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’”

That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, knowing that I have a lot to learn from the leaf.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

By Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Source: Poetry Foundation

Song for Autumn

By Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Source: Poetry Foundation


By Rainer Maria Rilke

The leaves are falling, falling as from far off,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with denying gestures.

And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the stars down into loneliness.

We are all falling. This hand falls.
And look at others; it is in them all.

And yet there is One who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands.

Source: Poets

Christopher Robin explaining the concept of Death to Pooh

Credits: heartoffire. Read the full text here.

Christopher stood up and took one last look over the Hundred Acre Wood. The sun was setting in the orange autumn sky and the trees were beginning to lose their leaves.

It was time he went home.

Christopher gathered all of his friends together and began walking back down the hill. They were all busy discussing the memories they had had with each other.

“Christopher?” Pooh said, looking up at Christopher as they walked hand in hand. “You aren’t coming back, are you?”

Christopher looked down at the ground and took a moment before he responded.

“No Pooh. I won’t be coming back this time.”

They walked in silence, listening to the sound of the crunching leaves underneath their feet.

Pooh suddenly stopped and looked intently into the ground.

“I believe I am going to miss you Christopher,” he said with a soft, broken voice.

Christopher leaned down and took his lifelong friend into his arms.

“I will miss you too Pooh. I will miss you very, very much.”

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