How To Officiate A Funeral
Phrases to assist the Officiant
There are a lot of similar phrases which are just worded slightly different to each other. Some have been blended with others to form a longer phrase. Both types are included as examples in order for you to tailor the wording in order to get a more personal feel to the proceedings.
Reading the scenario scripts here will also give you a good idea of how and where the phrases fit in with the service.
Here is an Example Ceremony - Semi-Religious Cremation Service
Replace [Name] in the phrase with the neame of the deceased
In no particular order:
We meet here today to honour and pay tribute to the life of [Name], and to express our love and admiration for him/her.
Also to try to bring some comfort to those of his/her family and friends who are here and have been deeply hurt by his/her sudden death.
[Name] wasn't a particularly religious person, so it's befitting that his/her funeral ceremony should reflect what he/she was, ...... a gentle, .....kind, ......loving person; devoted to his/her family
[Name] wasn't a particularly religious person but it was thought that his/her funeral service should include some form of religious content and prayers.
Its only natural that we should be sad today, because in a practical sense, [Name] is no longer a part of our lives, "we must die, we know" said a character in Shakespeare, " tis but the time and drawing days out that men stand upon", and so we all come to ponder the life and death of a truly wonderful/lovely man/lady aged 67; with confused and mixed feelings.
For we have a powerful sense of loss; combined with a recognition that; if death must come, its as well that its not unduly prolonged, we don't want to see someone we love suffer, so this sorrow; and our sense of the fitness of things; don't sit easily together, one purpose of our proceedings here today; is in some way to try to reconcile those feelings.
Today is also a day for memories, today will be remembered for many reasons, but mainly I hope it will be remembered by you all; as a very special day, a special day in which you shared some time with others; in order to pay your last respects; and to say both mentally and physically; a sad and fond farewell to a wonderful/lovely man/lady, ....a man/lady whom we were all so very privileged to have known.
Maya Angelou recently wrote;
When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger often follows in its wake. I answer the heroic question 'Death, where is thy sting?' with ' it is here in my heart and mind and memories.'
We have come together from different places, and we are all at different stages on our journey through life.
Our paths are varied and we look at life in different ways.
But there is one thing we all have in common, at one point or another, and to some degree or other, our lives have touched the life of [Name].
We are here this morning/afternoon in order to pay our last respects and bid a sad but fond farewell to [Name], we are here also, so that in our own way we can celebrate, honour and pay tribute to his/her life, and in doing so we express our sincere love and admiration for him/her.
And so this morning/afternoon we've put aside our usual daily activities for a while, and gathered here to give expression to the thoughts and feelings that well up in us at this time of loss.
And also because in one-way or another, [Name]'s] death affects us all.
This reading is from POEMS OF GITANJALI by Gitanjali Ghei
It was beautiful as long as it lasted, the journey of my life, I have no regrets whatsoever, save the pain I'll leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care, and the heavy with sleep ever-moist eyes, the smile in spite of a lump in the throat and the strings pulling at the heart and soul,
The strong arms that held me up when my own strength let me down, each morsel that I was fed with was full of love.
At every turning of my life I came across good friends, friends who stood by me, even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell my friends, I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears, for I need them not, all I need is your smile, If you feel sad, do think of me, for that's what I'll like, when you live in the hearts of those you love, remember then...... you never die.
You are all very welcome, my [Name] is [Name], and it's a great privilege and honour for me to be here this morning/afternoon to officiate at the funeral of such a well liked and respected gentleman/lady.
I know that today is a sad day, but I hope at the end of this farewell ceremony for [Name], that you will feel glad that took the opportunity to do some of your grieving in the presence of others who have known and loved him/her.
[Name] had some very specific wishes regarding the proceedings here this morning/afternoon, I hope his/her family will gain some form of comfort from knowing they were able to carry them out, as I'm sure [Name] gained comfort from knowing that they would.
Our ceremony for [Name] will not be religious as that would be against his/her wishes and out of keeping with his/her character, I know there may be those among you who for whom religious faith is a central part of life, and who are more familiar with a different form of service, but I hope we can agree that the human values we all share are of far more lasting importance than those matters that may divide us in this respect.
I never had the privilege of knowing [Name], but I have spent some time with his/her family over the last few days, however I'm not going to use that as a platform to talk to you about [Name].
I'm going to leave that to the people who really knew him/her, the people who really counted in his/her life, you, his/her family and his/her friends, so despite the obvious difficulty of the situation [Name], [Name],and [Name] are now going to speak.
Despite the obvious difficulty of the situation I know that [Name] would like to come up and say a few words.
[Name] has asked me to read this. I know he/she would really have liked to read it himself/herself but is understandably, unable to.
Before we continue, I wonder if there is anyone else here this morning/afternoon who might like to say a few words.
‘We must die we know' said a character in Shakespeare,'tis but the time and drawing days out that men stand upon', it is something to be thankful for that [Name] was spared any "drawing of days out".
[Name] has gone and it's only natural that we should be sad because in a practical sense he's no longer part of our lives, and the comfort of having a father, a grandfather, a brother and a friend may indeed be lost, but the comfort of having had that friend is never lost. To match the grief of losing him, we have the joy of having known him.
A joy of which we become especially aware of at this moment as we spend a few minutes in silence and remember [Name] in a time of good health and picture his living image in our minds and recall the special, personal qualities that made him unique.
[Name], had some very specific wishes regarding his/her funeral arrangements, it was his/her wish that his/her parting should be simple, sincere and dignified, unmarked by religious ceremony or formal tribute.
We respect those wishes.
And so we meet then, to say goodbye, and to reflect in a simple, private way on [Name]'s] life,..........so lets now spend a few moments in silence, and you can each remember [Name] in your own special way, and if you do have a religious belief, you might like to use this time for your own private prayer.
The death of someone we dearly love, someone we have shared the best part of our lives with, can sometimes seem like too much to bear, the pain of grief and the sense of loss is immense and often overwhelming.
[Name] had a good and varied life, in the short time we have here today, we can barely scratch the surface, but I hope when you leave here this morning/afternoon that you will do so with a real sense of having shared in something special, for a very special and unique gentleman/lady.
I would like to read that great message of hope and comfort which was written by Henry Scott Holland for his wife just before he died.
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Whatever we were to each other, we still are.
Please, call me by my old familiar [Name].
Speak of me in the same easy way you always did.
Laugh, as we always laughed, at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Think of me and smile.
Let my [Name] be the household [Name] it always was,
Spoken without the shadow of a ghost in it.
Life means all it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
Death is inevitable, so why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, - for an interval very near.
Nothing is past or lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before,
Only better and happier.
All is well.
Hold on to some of these memories now as we spend a few minutes in silence and you can each remember [Name] in your own special way, and those of you that do have a religious faith might like to use this time for your own private prayer.
As you all know, [Name] wasn't one to make a fuss, and it was her wish that the proceedings here today should be short, simple and sincere, its my privilege to play a small part in honouring that request.
[Name] wasn't a religious person, so it's befitting that his/her funeral ceremony should reflect what he/she was, ..a gentle, kind, ...loving person, totally devoted to his/her family.
The following reading is from the gospels, John 14. 1 - 6, 27.
Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.
In my father's house are many rooms;
if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also .
And you know the way where I am going.
Thomas said to him, Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?
Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.
All that has life has its beginning and its end.
Life exists in the time span between birth and death, and life's significance lies in the experiences and satisfactions we achieve in that life span.
At 90 years old [Name] had a long and varied life, we could sit here all morning/afternoon talking and reminiscing about his/her long life's journey, and we would still only just barely scratch the surface.
Please stand for the committal.
As part of the words of committal, I would like to read a short poem by Leo Marks,
The life that I have,
Is all that I have,
And the life that I have is yours.
The love that I have,
Of the life that I have,
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have,
A rest I shall have,
Yet death will be but a pause.
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass,
Will be yours and yours and yours.
Now is but a moment in time, I dedicate the next few moments to every single precious memory associated with [Name].
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose on earth.
A time to be born and a time to die.
Here in this final act, in sorrow but without fear, in love and appreciation we commit the body of [Name] [Name] to be cremated.
[Name] died peacefully in the early hours of last Monday morning in the bosom of his/her family and friends, surrounded by their love and warmth.
Please raise your glasses as we drink a toast to the memory of a good man no longer with us, [Name].
Should you return here, as you may, I hope some positive memories of our short and simple ceremony for [Name] , perhaps with the sharing of thoughts, feelings and memories will bring you comfort.
Before we take our leave, and to help send us on our way we have Mozart's violin concerto, which was a particular favourite of [Name] and he/she requested that it should be played on this occasion.
Thank you all for being here today for [Name].
The separateness, the uniqueness of each human life is the basis of our grief in bereavement.
Look through the whole world and there is no one like [Name], but he/she still lives on in your memories, and though no longer a visible part of your lives, he/she will always remain a member of your family and of your circle, through the influence he/she has had on you and the special part he/she played in your lives.
When you leave here in a short while, I hope; that like me, you will leave with a feeling of having shared in something special, for a very special man/lady.
Lets remind ourselves; that the dead reside not in the grave or an urn, but in the hearts and minds of the living.
Hold on to [Name] in your thoughts: there is no need to part from him/her too hastily, talk about him/her often, repeat the words and sayings he/she used, and the jokes he/she made, and enjoy your memories of him/her; just as we have; here today.
I know there may be those among you, who for whom religious faith is a central part of life, and who are more familiar with a different form of service, but I hope we can agree that the human values we all share; are of far more lasting importance than those matters which may divide us.
We are all concerned, directly; or indirectly with the death of any individual, for we are all members of one human community, though some of the links between us are strong and some are tenuous, each of us is joined to all the others by the links of kinship, love, or friendship, by living in the same neighbourhood or town or country, or simply by our own common humanity.
Love doesn't die, ever. Not real love. So you don't have to say: "I loved [Name]" you can still say: "I love [Name]"
I will not insult you by trying to tell you that one day you will forget. I know as well as you that you will not. But, at least, in time you will not remember as fiercely as you do now - and I pray that that time may be soon.
It's at such times; when we are at our lowest ebb that we need the bosom of our friends and family, we help and support each other, and in time, the veil of mist and numbness gradually disappears, we see a light at the end of the tunnel, we step out, and we look back, thankful that despite their own grief and sorrow, we had someone to lean on; when our own strength failed us.
I know [Name] would be very proud; to see how his/her family are supporting each other; at this very difficult time.
The catastrophe of death cannot be altered, but it can be transformed by love.
We can share our grief, and I hope you will not feel ashamed or embarrassed to weep openly if this is a help.
And isn't it an awesome thought that our particular species has been around for at least 100,000 years, and will probably be around for 100,000 more at least, and he/she choose this especial part of time to be here with you?
Would you rather you had not known [Name]? Of course not. Aren't you lucky - because you did know him/her.
The way we respond to the prospect of death is an expression or our own being. The way [Name] died was characteristic of the kind of person she was. She faced death without fear, and made it a fitting end to her long, full and fruitful life.
So now lets spend a few moments in silence and remember [Name] in our own way, and those of you that do have a religious belief may like to use this time for your own private prayer, and at this time our thoughts also go out to [Name]'s] family who have unselfishly devoted themselves to supporting [Name] through all of his illness, and also in turn the dear friends who have supported them.
Before we take our leave from here and to help send us on our way we are going to finish this ceremony with the last of [Name]'s special requests.
I hope when you hear this piece of music at any time in the future that you will be reminded of [Name] and smile.
I once read " that in every adversity there is the seed of an equal or greater benefit", I have always believed that statement, but 49 is no age to die, the only saving grace I can extract from that statement and [Name]'s] death is that he/she has left you all with so many happy, special memories.
Before we take our leave and to help send us on our way, we are going to listen to another song that was a particular favourite of [Name]'s] and held special memories for him/her.
Many of you here will remember and associate [Name] with the song Cotton Eyed Joe; you will be relived to know that we are not going to play that. Although I would like to suggest that the next time you hear it you may be reminded of [Name], and perhaps be brave enough to smile.
This is Rod Stewarts Maggie May. Thank you.
Our ceremony will be a short and simple one, which is what [Name] wanted. It will not be religious because that would be out of keeping with his character and what he believed.
We are now going to listen to My Way sung of course by Frank Sinatra, this was a particular favourite of [Name]'s] and I suspect he shared the sentiments expressed in the lyrics.
Thank you for being here today for [Name], but now it's time for us to leave to the words of the hymn ‘ Holy Father Cheer our Way'.
We have come to the end of this ceremony for [Name] , and now to help send us on our way, as we continue our life's journey, we will listen to Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman sing Con Te Partiro' for it is indeed Time To Say Goodbye.
Sadly I never had the privilege of knowing [Name] , but I have had the pleasure of spending some time with his family over the last week, and that has left me with a very clear impression of the kind of person that he/she was.
Today we have gathered here to pay our last respects and to say our final farewells to [Name].
It's only natural that we should be sad today, because in a practical sense [Name] is no longer a part of our lives. But we should not grieve ---- to live a good and fulfilling life for one hundred and two years and then to gently pass away in one's sleep without pain or discomfort is truly something to be thankful for.
All living things are subject to death: it is the basis of growth. Through evolution, in the course of millions upon millions of deaths, humanity has evolved.
We carry this inheritance. But we, as human individuals, have a more personal contribution to make, in the value of our own lives. And those of us who accept the unity and completeness of the natural order of things, and believe that to die means the end of all conscious personality, as [Name] did, look death in the face with honesty, with dignity and with calm.
Bertrand Russell wrote: an individual human existence should be like a river-small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past boulders and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and-in the end--- without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being.
The man or woman who, in old age, can see his or her life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things they care for will continue.
I know that some of you have travelled some distances to be here today for [Name]. You're all very welcome.
When someone is taken from us, as [Name] was, in the prime of their life, understandably we are not as comfortable with words and phrases that point towards a celebration of their life.
Immense anger, deep hurt, inconsolable grief, rage, disbelief, these are just a few of the words and feelings that are associated with thoughts of [Name]. But hidden in all the pain and sorrow that we feel.
There is undeniably something to celebrate.
We can celebrate the fact that we have known [Name], though he/she is no longer with us we can celebrate that we were privileged and honoured to have known him/her.
The catastrophe of death cannot be altered, but it can be transformed by love.
We are here to share our grief, so I hope you will not feel ashamed or embarrassed to weep openly if this is a help.
And perhaps you will feel glad that you took the opportunity to do some of your grieving in the presence of others who have known and loved [Name].
That he/she was a part of our lives
Death is a very personal matter for those who know it in someone close to them, but we are all concerned, directly or indirectly, with the death of any individual, because we are all members of one human community.
Before we take our leave, and to help send us on our way I'm going to read a short poem called "Smile For You" after which there will be a short piece of music by Enya.
Smile For You
Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin,
When he smiled I realised I'd passed it onto him.
I thought about that smile, then realised its worth,
A single smile, just like mine, could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected,
Lets start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!
Thank you for being here today for [Name].
This is "Watermark" by Enya
Please leave the chapel when the music has ended.
[Name] always enjoyed a wide variety of music and [Name] of spouse] had great difficulty in choosing something appropriate for the end of today's proceedings, I think what she did choose will go some of the way to salute the life of a very special man/lady
[Name] died last Friday in the bosom of his family, I know he will be greatly missed by everyone who knew and loved him.
No one could have loved more, or have been more loved than [Name].
And at this time our thoughts also go out to [Name]'s] family who have unselfishly devoted themselves to supporting [Name] through all of his/her illness, and also in turn the dear friends who have supported them.
[Name] was a very special man/lady, but you already know that, which is why some of you have travelled some considerable distances to be here today for him/her.
[Name] never gave up the fight but the last six months were a losing battle, his/her family and friends had to helplessly watch, as his/her illness progressively took over his/her body
As always he/she was completely aware of what was happening around him/her, and despite this knowledge was able to laugh and joke with his/her visitors and on occasion's offer comfort to them.
We are now going to listen to the last four minutes or so of Rodrigo's Adagio
This was a particular favourite of [Name]'s] and he/she choose it especially for this occasion.
[Name] was a bit of a loner, a private person. He/She always kept himself/herself to himself/herself, consequently we know very little about his/her life. We do know [Name] had his/her problems, but we don't want to elaborate or dwell on that side of his/her life.
[Name] died with quiet dignity last Friday. He/She was 80 years old.
Perhaps you can conjure up a picture of [Name] in your mind, picture his/her image in happier times.
There is life and there is death. They are not opposites. They are complimentary. One gives rise to the other. Without one, the other does not exist. There are no opposites. Opposites are illusions.
No hero without a villain.
No health without disease.
No saviour without devil.
No day without night.
The last breath contains within it the first breath.
The first holds the seed of the last.
They are the same. It's a matter of expression.
The first act of life is inhalation. The baby cries and everyone laughs.
The final act of life is exhalation. A woman closes her eyes and everyone cries.
People often cry.
And though we are few, it doesn't mean that his/her leave taking should be any the less significant
[Name] wasn't one to stand too much on ceremony, so without further ado we commit his/her body.
Here and now we dedicate this simple plot in these natural surroundings to the memory of [Name], and we say to him/her, Rest In Peace.
We know very little about [Name], perhaps that was the way he/she preferred it.
We don't know for sure, but we hope that when we die we are reunited with our loved ones who have gone before us.
I would like to read something for [Name] in the hope that he/she is once again reunited with those whom he/she loved and once loved him/her, it was written by Victor Hugo and is called What Is Dying
I am standing upon that foreshore, a ship at my side spreads her white sails to 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!"
And that is dying.
Let's remind ourselves that the dead reside not in the grave or an urn but in the hearts and minds of the living and also that the best of all answers to death is the whole-hearted and continuing affirmation of life.
(Suicide)No one who encountered [Name] failed to be warmed by his/her zest for the adventures in life, and his/her capacity for affection and friendship, and no one who knows of his/her tragic death will remain untouched by it, nor fail to ask themselves if they could have done anything to prevent it.
(Suicide)I hope you will remember [Name] with love and affection, and not with bewilderment over the choice he/she made at the end.
For anyone who knew [Name] , it should come as no surprise to find yourself here today, standing around his coffin, with a glass in your hand, I can see we have all got a drink so I'll take this opportunity to propose a simple and sincere toast to [Name]'s memory, so ladies and gentlemen please raise your glasses and salute a good man no longer with us. [Name] .
Whilst writing these words last week I was reminded of a short poem that was written by John Dryden called ‘Happy the Man' which I would like to share with you now.
Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.
When you leave here shortly I hope that, like me, you will do so with a real sense of having shared in something special, for a very special man/lady. But for the moment please remain seated whilst we listen to a few minutes of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata
And so we meet then, to say goodbye, and to reflect in a simple, private way on [Name's] life,