Hymns for Funeral Services

These sections cover all the normal elements of a funeral service: hymns and songs, poems and prayers.    It is important that you talk through your choices with the person taking the service. The choices are yours in the end, but especially with prayers, the minister will want to contribute to the decision-making process.

Christ be beside me

((New words in Blue)

Christ be beside me, Christ be before me.
Christ be behind me, King of my heart.
Christ be within me, Christ be below me,
Christ be above me, never to part.

Christ of our loved ones, carry our burdens
Hear all our questions, anger and pain
Heal the deep hurting, comfort our grieving,
Clear our confusion, let hope remain.

Christ in the new day, Christ at its setting
Seeking his blessing, knowing his will
Hearts that are aching, in his arms resting,
Gently he whispers, “Peace to you still”

New words – Alister Bull 2009

Lord We Come To You Rememb’ring

Tune: Stuttgart

Lord, we come to you rememb’ring
All the love and pain we share.
May we feel your understanding
Saving us from dark despair.

Lord, you came to be our brother,
Came to meet our deepest needs,
Came to hold us like a mother,
Faith and hope to plant as seeds.

Lord, we turn to you in sadness,
Be our Saviour and our Shield.
Shine your light into our darkness,
In your love our hearts be healed

Nick Ball (February 2011)

Jesus, Friend Of Little Children

Tune: Quem Pastores

Jesus, friend of little children
Held them in his arms and blessed them
Hold our child for us for ever
Hear our prayer and touch our hearts

Jesus, Lord, you wept for loved ones,
Helped and comforted the grieving,
Meet us in our tearful journey
Hear our prayer and share our road.

Lord of Life, you showed us courage
How to face our hours of darkness,
Help us bear each other’s sorrows
Hear our prayer and make us strong.

Jesus Christ, you lived for others
Bore the cross of pain and sorrow.
Christ, who died and rose to save us
Hear our prayer and give us faith

Nick Ball (March 2011)

Lord of Compassion

Tune: Morning Has Broken

Lord of compassion, tender and caring,
Holding our children, hid from our sight,
Stars in the bright sky, angels in heaven,
Gathered around you, maker of light.

These are our loved ones, shining in heaven,
These are our children, held in our hearts.
Candles still burning, softly but safely,
Each light still shining deep in our hearts.

Beauty of summer, changed into winter,
Young leaves that fell,
while still they were green.
Help us to treasure all of our mem’ries,
Waiting for new buds, as yet unseen.

Lord may your mercy reach all your people,
Give to us mourners help with our tears.
Lord as we travel hurting and grieving
Lighten our journey all of our years.

Words by Nick Ball

Thank you for the gifts we treasure

Tune: Praise My Soul the King of Heaven

Thank you for the gifts we treasure,
Past and present, seen, unseen.
People, places, life’s experience,
Faith and doubt, our hopes and dreams.
Come with light and come with comfort,
Shine in us through all our days.

Thank you for the wealth of memories
Of our children, still so dear.
Tears and laughter, joys and sorrows
Make their presence feel so near.
Come with light and come with comfort,
Shine in us through all our days.

Thank you for the care of others
As we walk unchartered ways;
Hands that hold ours through the sorrow,
Shining light in darkest days.
Come with light and come with comfort,
Shine in us through all our days.

Thank you for the hope that fills us
As we journey from this place
To that time where all our questions,
Tears and longing find deep peace.
Come with light and come with comfort,
Shine in us through all our days.

Dorothy Moore Brooks (2011)

Memories Sad And Beautiful

Tune: All things Bright and Beautiful

Lots of verses to invite Families to choose from

Chorus:
Memories sad and beautiful
Of children big and small
Memories good and precious
We’ll treasure each and all.

The weeks spent on the wards
The courage of our child
The caring of the nurses
We hold them every one

Chorus:

The photos that we hold dear
Her playing with her toys
The weeks at home together
We celebrate these joys

Chorus:

The smiles that you gave us
The love that we all shared
These memories grow more tender
A sign that we all cared

Chorus:

We promise you will always
Live on within our hearts
We know that there’s a heaven
Where we will never part

Chorus:

Paul Nash (March 2011)

Tell out, my soul my heart cries out to you!

(Tune: Woodlands)

Tell out, my soul, my heart cries out to you!
You are my healer in this time of need
No other knows the depths of hurt within
But you are always with me to the end

Tell out, my soul, the questions on my mind
The doubts and fears that rage upon my soul
Come bring Your peace so thoughts and heart are stilled
Help me dwell in the One who makes me whole.

Tell out, my soul, the love that aches through loss!
Unite our faith, to trust in things unseen.
Lift up our hearts but feet firm on the ground,
To be brave souls to walk this path of pain.

Tell out, my soul, the promise of your hope!
Walk in Your goodness so that we prevail.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children’s children and for evermore!

Words adapted and written by Rev. Alister Bull and Martin Kelly

Lord of the Days

Suggested Tune: Lord of the Years

Lord of the days
You cherished them within us,
Lord of their smiles, their tears, their hopes, their joy,
Grant us your comfort as you now enfold them,
And in our sorrow, take them to your heart.

Lord of the times
We hoped and prayed and cried to you,
Lord of our anger and long night of fear,
Now they have left us, now that you enfold them,
Grant us your strength and help us say goodbye.

God of the years
We cannot yet imagine,
Hold onto us and all who’ve lost their child.
You only know us, and you will enfold us,
Grant us your peace until you call us home.

Stephen Willey, 2011, loosely inspired by Timothy Dudley-Smith’s original words

Here are some new compositions by members of the PCN (Paediatric Chaplaincy Network), addressing the issues of child bereavement directly. Permission has been granted to use these in funerals and memorial services, so feel free to copy and paste them into your Orders of Service.

Fleetingly Known, Yet Ever Remembered

This hymn was in circulation before the PCN was formed. Suggested Tune: Bunnessan, as in ‘Morning has Broken’

Fleetingly known, yet ever remembered
These are our children, now and always:
These whom we see not, we will forget not,
Morning and evenings, all of our days.

Lives that touched our lives, tenderly, briefly,
Now in the one light living always.
Named in our hearts now, safe from all harm now,
We will remember, all of our days.

As we recall them, silently name them,
Open our hearts, Lord, now and always:
Grant to us, grieving, love for the living:
Strength for each other, all of our days.

Safe in your peace, Lord, hold these our children,
Grace, light and laughter, grant them each day:
Cherish and hold them, till we may know them,
When to your glory we find our way.

God Who Created Both Sunshine And Rain

Suggested Tune: Slane (regular version as in Lord of All Hopefulness)
God who created both sunshine and rain
We come now before you in sadness and pain,
Lord give to our loved one your peace and your rest,
Your promise of heaven and new life the blessed.

We bring our memories of good times and bad,
Our hearts that knew joy, but which now must be sad.
But all that our children have been and will be
Is held in the life that one day we shall see.

Dark clouds may hide you and hinder our sight,
But shine through our darkness and still be our light.
And though we may doubt you and question your ways
Still give us your comfort, both now and always.

Help us to know in our hearts and our minds,
That you are still with us, O Lord God most kind.
And when life’s great troubles, as all storms, shall cease,
Your love will enfold us and give us your peace.

Nick Ball, 2011.

Let Your Love Console Us

Suggested Tune: Picardy, as in ‘Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence’

Let your love console us, hold us,
For we have no strength of our own;
All our energy’s drained from us –
Heavy arms and legs feel like stone:

Lift us, Lord, in loyal remembering;
Show us your new life even now.
We remember so much heartache –
Courage, laughter, love and tears;

Rollercoaster hope then disappointment –
Turning minutes into years:
Yet the good outweighs all suffering
In your timeless healing light.
Let your love console us, hold us,
Overlay, eclipse any fear;

Your promise is (s)he’s in safe keeping
Though much else remains unclear:
Source of all, and End of all existence,
Help us put our trust in you.

Pamela Turner, 2011

God’s Eternity (In this very different Life)

Tune: All things bright and beautiful

Chorus:
In this very different life
there is no end to joy –
God’s eternity’s pure light
that suffering can’t destroy!

We know that we will miss her/him;
we’ll long to hold her/him close;
but love in heaven is perfect –
no space nor place for woe!

Chorus:

So much potential vanished
and promise unfulfilled,
so much in all that’s happened
it’s hard to say God willed.

Chorus:

We’ve been left countless memories
of simple special times,
of playing chosen screen games,
inventing silly rhymes!

Chorus:

© Pamela Turner (2011)

It Is So Hard To Let You Go

O Waly, Waly, English traditional melody, as in ‘The water is wide’

It is so hard to let you go;
there’s so much suffering and pain;
we can’t forget how you changed our lives –
a rainbow fronting falling rain.

God bless you then wherever you are,
and in our grief be your release;
our struggles pale against your own;
our prayers are now that you’re at peace.

Eternal God, you are our hope;
Lord Jesus Christ to you we hold;
dear Holy Spirit, stay as our guide
till we have seen life’s mystery unfold.

Pamela Turner, 2010

I cried to the sky

Tune: Skye Boat Song

Why, oh why? I cried to the sky,
why has this happened to me?
Why, I cry, did my child have to die?
Will someone please help me to see…

It is unfair! No contest there!
God doesn’t seem to care.
Yet when life’s rough, God’s love is tough,
in Jesus God’s soul was laid bare…

Releasing your own, your heart’s like a stone;
God’s heart was broken too.
Much is unknown, but no-one’s alone;
Jesus we clasp hands with you.

Pamela Turner, 2011

Lord for the Years

Tune: Lord for the years

Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided,
urged and gave comfort, helped us through each day
calmed us with peace, comforted, provided:
Lord for those years, we bring our thoughts today.

Lord, for our land in this our generation,
spirits oppressed by sorrow, pain and care:
for young and old, for all who make this nation,
Lord of our land, bring hope when we despair

Lord, in those days when we disown and doubt you,
loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain,
Anxious and helpless, lost indeed without you:
Lord of our days, we pray that You may reign.

Lord in those days, when we are filled with sorrows,
Grieving and helpless, when tears and pain hold sway,
Give us your love, in painful sad tomorrows,
Lord in such days, help us to see the way.

Lord for this time, when we recall our loved ones
Be near us now, and guard us with your peace
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, lead us to your home.

Words written and adapted by Alister Bull and Martin Kelly

God’s Eternity (In this very different Life)

Tune: All things bright and beautiful

Chorus:
In this very different life
there is no end to joy –
God’s eternity’s pure light
that suffering can’t destroy!

We know that we will miss her/him;
we’ll long to hold her/him close;
but love in heaven is perfect –
no space nor place for woe!

Chorus:

So much potential vanished
and promise unfulfilled,
so much in all that’s happened
it’s hard to say God willed.

Chorus:

We’ve been left countless memories
of simple special times,
of playing chosen screen games,
inventing silly rhymes!

Chorus:

© Pamela Turner (2011)

When Nature’s Order is Turned Around

Tune: O Flower of Scotland

When nature’s order
Is turned around and we must face
The loss of our child who
We love and long to embrace

We bring our sorrow
We speak our anger
We search for meaning
We long for peace

When all around us
The world goes on and ours stands still
And grieving is lonely
And empty hearts can’t be filled

We bring our sorrow
We speak our anger
We search for meaning
We long for peace

And when our sorrow
Begins to ease and hope returns
We’ll never forget how
Our lives with love for them burns

We bring our sorrow
We speak our anger
We search for meaning
We long for peace

When we remember
Your child so loved died on the cross
Your comfort enfolds us –
Our God knows all about loss

You feel our sorrow
You hear our anger
You give us meaning
You bring us peace

Dorothy Moore Brooks, 2010

Goodbye Dear Child

Tune: Edelweiss

Goodbye dear child
We will always remember you
Bringing joy, bringing light
You’re so precious to me, to me.

Now with God whole and well
We’re so pleased you feel no pain
You knew love, you gave love
You’re so precious to me to me.

Sally Nash, 2011

Poems

You may want to have poems at your child’s funeral. There are many poems available on the internet, especially around the theme of baby loss. So you can do your own research. Your Service Leader may bring a selection when they visit. Two poems I have found very popular are ‘Little Snowdrop’ (Author Unknown) and ‘Journey just begun’ by Ellen Bremmerman. ‘I Was Not Yours To Keep’; ‘Remembering’, which begins ‘Go ahead and mention my child, the one that died you know’; ‘I’m Everyplace’; ‘I’m Here To Help You Cry’ and a Litany of Remembrance, which begins ‘When we remember our loved ones, it means that we have carried something of who they were with us.’ You prefer to write your own poem: these can be very personal and powerful. Sometimes members of the family, including children, will read. If nobody wants to read your Service Leader will read it for you.

The following poems have been written by members of the Paediatric Chaplaincy Network:

A Parent’s Pain

Head hung
In silent despair,
Keeping vigil for any
Sign of hope.

Eyes heavy
With tears poured out
Through fearful, frantic days
And restless, endless nights.

Heart broken –
Pierced with a paralysing, powerless, pain
As the child you nurtured
Lies wounded

Arms outstretched –
Seeing it all,
Feeling it all,
Bearing it all.

Dorothy Moore Brooks, 2010

In you, my God

In you, my God,
no real harm can come;
You swaddle me closely, a nurturing mum.
Loved and precious I rest in the womb of your care
whatever in life I am challenged to dare.
I rest, and re-charge there.

Our Stolen Gift

With empty hearts and empty lives
We face this broken mountain path.
With searing, tearing, grieving pain
We face this dark and misty road.

With memories born of joy and pain,
Hopes and fears and resignation.
The shattered bonds of parents’ love,
The empty arms, the torn embrace.

Dear child, you were our precious gift,
Of longing years and aching days,
A promised joy beyond all words,
A bud that never showed its flower.

Each time we dream we see your smile,
We hear your laughter charm our ears,
Your eyes that sparkle like the dew,
Your skin so tender, soft to touch.

Our grief is always part of us,
The wondering, ‘Why, O why this road?’
Our promised warmth is bitter chill,
Our spring turned back to winter dark.

And yet our child you still will be,
Your heart will beat inside our hearts.
And we will never let you go
But guard the flame that burns always.

Nick Ball, April 2011

Celebrating Brief Lives

There, and gone:
full of golden promise
then
like a frail single petal
on a gorgeous flower-head
fallen –

fallen and blown by the wind
on a fluttering fairground ride to heaven
where
filigree fingers of silver-white light
catch and hold
her soul.

Pamela Turner, 2004

Prayers

 The following prayers have been written as additional resources, bearing in mind that ‘short and simple’ can still be loving and dignified, but that at other times something fuller is appropriate.

Introduction at a Funeral

We have gathered here today to remember this baby /child / young person N,

to give thanks for/celebrate/share our memories of him/her,

and to commend him/her to God’s safe and loving keeping,

We are here to comfort each other in our grief and loss,

to remember Jesus’s love for children

and to his celebrate his promise of new and eternal life in heaven.

 

Candle-Lighting

The lighting of candles can be a very powerful symbol. This may or may not be the child’s baptism candle, depending on whether a candle was given at baptism or not. If the family don’t have a baptism candle, but the child has been baptized, one can always be provided. If the child has not been baptized, lighting a candle can still be just as appropriate, but the words will be different. Here are some suggestions.

  • Let us light a candle as a symbol of this delicate life, which was unable to stay alight and earthed among us. (McRae-McMahon, 2004)
  • Let us light this candle to remind us that N will always shine in the hearts of all who love him/her/them.
  • This candle reminds us that N shone as a light in this world and will shine for ever in our hearts.

Versions that specifically promise eternal life are:

  • Let us light a (tiny) candle as a symbol of this delicate life, which was unable to stay alight and earthed among us (but which now shines in the eternal light of heaven) (McRae-McMahon, 2004, adapted).
  • This candle reminds us that N shone as a light in this world, that he/she now shines among the lights of heaven and will shine for ever in our hearts.
  • We light/light again N’s baptism candle, to remind us of the new and eternal life, which is ours in Jesus Christ and in which N shares.
  • (If there is an Easter Candle available) This Easter candle proclaims that Christ died and rose to give us eternal life. We light N’s baptism candle to remind us that his/her light now shines among the lights of heaven and in our hearts for ever.

Alternatively the family may light a candle to represent their child and other candles to represent other members of the family. Possible words could be:

  • The light of love shines for ever.
  • The light of love shines in this life and in the new and eternal life that is to come.

 

 

Seven Candles

The Menorah or seven-armed candlestick comes from the Jewish tradition, but it can be used in the Christian tradition or in a non-religious setting. Alternatively a cluster of tea lights can be lit, using coloured glass holders. The candles can be lit by members of the family or by the person leading the service. The words offered here provide a suggested outline, which can readily be adapted to the individual situation. The candles could be placed near a picture of the child.

  • This candle represents our memories of your face and the way you smiled.
  • This candle represents the things you used to say to us.
  • This candle represents the times you were angry or hurting.
  • This candle represents the things you achieved.
  • This candle represents the things you enjoyed most in life.
  • This candle represents your hopes, your fears and your courage.
  • This candle represents the love you showed to us.

The menorah could also be used as a focus for the prayers, or for a non-religious act of remembrance. Again this is an outline—it may be appropriate to light candles for each member of the immediate family.

  • Lord we pray for N as we remember your promise of eternal life.
  • Lord we pray for N’s family (immediate family names may be used), that they may find consolation.
  • Lord we pray for N’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, that they may be sustained.
  • Lord we pray for N’s school-friends and teachers, that they may be comforted.
  • Lord we pray for N’s church (or other society, etc) that they may be supported.
  • Lord we pray for N’s pets, who miss him/her.
  • Lord, we pray for all of us, who are gathered here today, as we remember N and your assurance that nothing can separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen

For a non-religious act of remembrance, the words ‘We think of’ would be an appropriate phrase, rather than ‘we pray.’

  • We think at this time of N and all that was/has been/is so special about them.
  • We think of N’s parents/mother/father (name them).

 

A simple prayer for God’s help, covering some of the key themes in Child Bereavement

Heavenly Father / Dear God in heaven

Help us today and every day.

Help us to remember all that is special about N,

and to comfort each other and all who are grieving for him/her.

Help us to know that N will always live in our hearts

and that you will hold him/her in your arms of love

till we can hold him/her again in your heavenly kingdom.

Help us today and every day. Amen.

 

 

A Simple Intercession in Four Sections

Lord, we remember N

And everything that is so special about him/her

(particular memories may be inserted)

Help us treasure these precious memories in our hearts

Today and all our days

Lord, have mercy on us

Christ, have mercy on us

 

Lord, meet us in our grief and sorrow,

Help us to comfort each other

As a family and as friends

(As a church and as a community)

(particular people may be named)

Lord, have mercy on us


Christ, have mercy on us

Lord, help us to trust in your promise

Of new and eternal life in Christ

And give us some sense of hope and inner peace

In our lives day by day.

Lord, have mercy on us


Christ, have mercy on us

Lord, hear our prayers,

Be our companion on the road

And lead us to eternal life and light

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Now and always. Amen.

 

Alternative Responses


Lord, meet us where we are/Lord, meet us in the silence

And hear our prayers

Lord, in your mercy

Hear our prayer

Lord hear us

Lord, graciously hear us

Nick Ball 2011

 

‘We Remember Them’

Many are familiar with this prayer, the original form of which is in the Book of Jewish Common Prayer, which can be found on the internet. This Litany of Remembrance has two great strengths: it is suitable for non-religious services as well as religious ones, and it can be adapted by personalizing the content, if this is helpful. In fact working out a personalized version with a family could be an excellent way of preparing for the service.  This version was written for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Annual Memorial Service. The alternatives are there to adjust, depending on whether it is for a funeral or a memorial service. The use of ‘you’ will work for some families, but not for others.

When we wake in the morning and a new day begins

We remember you/him/her/them

When we are together and when we are alone

We remember you/him/her/them

When we sit inside and look at photographs

We remember you/him/her/them

When we are out in the garden with the flowers and the birds/pets

We remember you/him/her/them

When we are at the seaside or in the countryside

We remember you/him/her/them

When we sit down at the table or in front of the television

We remember you/him/her/them

On the ordinary days and on the special days

We remember you/him/her/them

When we lie awake at night and hold you close to our hearts

We remember you/him/her/them

 

We will always remember you,

because you are part of us

and you will always be with us.

Nick Ball, 2011

 

Or

In bedtime stories and new wii games,

when our suppers are their favourite food,

we will remember them.

 

In shouting the odds and cheering on the team,

at half-time over a burger,

we will remember them.

 

When the days last forever and the years fly by,

in the gritty, scary moments of flashbacks,

we will remember them.

Then when life is back to ‘normal’

and death has to take a back seat,

in the relentless succession of ‘have-tos’

God will remember them.

Pamela Turner, 2010 

 

Doves and Balloons

Sometimes the service will end with the release of balloons or doves. If possible this should be included in the liturgy, and ideally the final blessing should follow the release. Balloons and doves can behave in unpredictable ways and this can lighten the tone at the end of a solemn occasion. Two unforgettable occasions were a dove release where the dove settled in a tree and took a good look round at everyone there before flying away, and a balloon release on a clear still afternoon in October with the sound of bagpipes in the background. As we previously mentioned, the release of Chinese lanterns, even if it is not banned under local bye-laws, should be discouraged, as they can be dangerous.

You can write your own prayer or adapt this section, which comes near the end of Dorothy McRae McMahon’s Order of Service. It adds profoundly to the Commendation and Committal (Farewell) sections and is adapted very easily for a balloon or dove release.

‘This little life touched the earth very lightly,

leaving his/her fragile footsteps in our hearts

but unable to hold them to the ground.

He/she did not leave us through lack of love

or because there was more that we should have done to sustain life

or because of our choices.

The miracle is that this brief time with us

was enough for the creation of love.

Now (like this dove/these balloons)

His/her spirit has spread its wings

and joined the eternal life and love of God

in the mysteries of the new creation

beyond our understanding or our holding.’


Blessing at the End of the Service

May the Lord Jesus Christ,

who took children in his arms and blessed them,

hold each one of you in his arms of love,

give you his comfort, light and peace

and the bread you need for your journey.

So may the Lord God bless you and keep you,

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

today and for ever. Amen.

 

 

[1] To include in any other compilation please apply to Red Balloon Resources rbr@bch.nhs.uk

Suggested Reviewers and People who might help with dissemination of the resource.

  • Tracey Harewood & Nicky Fitzmaurice
  • Dawn Chaplin
  • Matthews Family
  • Billy and Becky (relatives)
  • Derek Case (Funeral Director)

Reviewers for Final Product

  • Church Times
  • Methodist Recorder
  • Diocese of Birmingham
  • As advised by Derek Case