Book Review: Poems And Readings For Funerals And Memorials

Poems And Readings For Funerals And Memorials, compiled by Luisa Moncada

Just as I read a collection of poems for weddings and civil partnerships, at the same time as a companion volume I read the collection of poems and readings for funerals and memorials.  In many ways, although weddings look forward to new life and funerals and memorials look backward on a life lived and forward often with a hope of the life to come, the books are more similar than one might imagine.  As someone who is no stranger to musing about death [1], this book certainly encouraged more melancholy reflections on life and it was interesting to see how the compiler made sense of various conceptions of death and afterlife and the love felt by the living for the dead in these readings.  That is not to say that I agree with all of the sentiments expressed here–I do not, specially among those readings that presuppose an imaginary soul–but at least the readings capture a great deal of the collection of thoughts and feelings that people have about death and the dead.  Those who use this book, of course, will be responsible for selecting among the readings those that most apply to their own situation and their own feelings and indeed their own beliefs.

In terms of its contents, this book is organized much like its companion volume in being alphabetically organized by author except for biblical passages which are organized by book.  Again, as with the previous volume, this book is one that can be used as a resource but is not going to be the source of one’s material.  One is going to have to create or borrow a template for giving a funeral or performing a memorial, although this book will certainly add material if one finds a great deal of use.  Depending on one’s views about death and one’s relationship to the dead person, different readings will make more sense to use than others.  Likewise, some people themselves had such marked ways of living life that some readings will apply to them more than others.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of materials, since it comes in at under 200 pages.  Even so, much of this is material I have already read, and a great deal of it was material that reflects my own thoughts about death and dying.

So, what kind of reader is going to get a lot out of this book?  Well, if you are working on a talk involving death, and you want to give your talk a strong sense of biblical or classical allusions, this book is a solid one to go to.  At least a few of the poems included on here are identical to selections included in this same publisher’s poems and readings for weddings and partnership collection, which made for an odd tonal shift.  Additionally, it is clear that some of the readings were included because certain people like Oprah Winfrey are popular for the moment even if their thoughts and writings are not likely to long endure.  Despite the presence of some throwaway material, though, there is enough here for a solid read, and if you view it for what it is and don’t expect too much out of it, there is a great deal that a reader can use from this book.  This is a very basic book, and not one that really rewards straight through reading, but as a compendium of materials about death and dying and speculations on the afterlife, this is certainly a useful read for those who have the reason to read it.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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