What are the words said at graveside?

When a loved one passes away, the funeral and burial serve as important parts of the grieving process. At the graveside service, final words and prayers are said as the casket is lowered into the ground. These meaningful sentiments provide comfort, hope, and closure to family and friends.

Common Elements of Graveside Services

Though the specific details may vary, graveside services often include:

  • Final viewing of the casket
  • Singing of hymns or sacred songs
  • Readings from scripture or poetry
  • Eulogies from family or friends
  • Military honors for veterans
  • Committal prayers led by clergy
  • Placing of flowers on the casket
  • Lowering of the casket into the grave

The words spoken at a graveside service aim to provide consolation, express gratitude for the deceased’s life, and affirm faith in eternal life after death. The tone is solemn yet hopeful.

Common Prayers and Readings

While personalized remarks and readings are common, several traditional prayers and texts are frequently incorporated into graveside services across faith traditions:

Christian Graveside Services

  • The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
  • Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd…”
  • Psalm 46:1-5 – “God is our refuge and strength…”
  • John 14:1-6 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
  • Romans 8:31-39 – “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 – “We will all be changed…”
  • Revelation 21:1-7 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…”

These Biblical passages assure of God’s protection and offer hope in eternal life through Christ.

Jewish Graveside Services

  • El Maleh Rachamim – “God, full of compassion…”
  • Psalm 23
  • Psalm 121 – “I lift up my eyes to the mountains…”
  • Job 19:23-27 – “O that my words were written down…”
  • Isaiah 57:1-2 – “The righteous perish…”

These verses recognize God’s mercy, portray death as a passage to a better place, and affirm faith in the resurrection.

Muslim Graveside Services

  • Al-Fatiha – “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful…”
  • Ayat Al-Kursi – “Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence…”
  • Surat Yasin – “Ya Sin. By the Quran full of wisdom…” This chapter affirms resurrection after death.

These verses from the Quran express absolute faith in Allah and belief in eternal life after death.

Secular Graveside Services

Non-religious graveside services often include:

  • Poetry or literary passages
  • Quotes about death, grief, and remembrance
  • Eulogies emphasizing the deceased’s legacy

These elements evoke emotions, commemorate the deceased, and provide hope without religious reference.

Common Committal Prayers

Spoken as the casket is lowered into the ground, committal prayers are a final farewell, entrusting the soul to its resting place and to God. Examples include:

Christian Committal Prayers

  • “We therefore commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” (from the Book of Common Prayer)
  • “Lord God, by your mighty power you gave us life, and in your love you have given us new life in Christ Jesus. We entrust our brother/sister to your merciful keeping in the faith of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who died and rose again to save us. Accept this body into the arms of your mercy, and remember this child of yours forever.” (from the Book of Blessings)
  • “Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant. We thank you for giving him/her to us, his/her family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (from the Book of Common Prayer)

Jewish Committal Prayers

  • “Upon them may there be abundant peace from heaven, and life.”
  • “May the soul of the departed be bound up in the bond of eternal life.”
  • “May you be strengthened and comforted in the mourner’s sacred work of honor and memory.”

Muslim Committal Prayers

  • “We commit you to earth, in the name of Allah the merciful and the compassionate. We commit you to earth and pray that Allah forgives you and has mercy on you and enlarges your place in paradise. Accept our prayers with his prayers, and forgive him, and have mercy on him, and pardon him, and give him security, and overlook his faults, for no man is without fault. O Allah, forgive him and give him security and enlighten his grave, and widen his entrance…”
  • “We ask Allah, the Most High, the Supreme, to receive you amongst the honored, and to fold you into His mercy, and envelop you in His graces, and guard you with His protection, and to save you from the torments of the grave and that which follows it…”

Other Common Elements

In addition to spoken prayers, other frequent graveside elements include:

  • Flower offerings – Mourners will often place roses, lilies, or other flowers on the casket in remembrance before it is lowered.
  • Sprinkling of earth – Handfuls of dirt may be sprinkled onto the casket by the clergy, family members, or other mourners as a symbol of committing the body to the earth.
  • Bagpipes – For military burials, mournful bagpipe music like “Amazing Grace” is often played.
  • Flyovers – The missing man formation, 21-gun salute, or other aviation rituals may occur for veteran burials.
  • Eternal flame – Some families choose to light an eternal flame at the headstone in lasting memory of the deceased.

These meaningful gestures bring additional solemnity and closure to graveside services.

Differences Across Faiths and Cultures

While graveside services share common themes of faith, hope, and honor, specific details differ:

Christian Graveside Services

  • Focus on Bible readings about resurrection and eternal life through Christ
  • Prayers concentrate on entrusting the soul to Jesus and God
  • Clergy lead committal prayers
  • Holy water may be sprinkled on the casket
  • Catholic rites include incense and holy anointing

Jewish Graveside Services

  • Prayers and psalms emphasize everlasting life and God’s kingdom
  • Mourner’s Kaddish prayer affirms faith after death
  • Rabbi says prayers and performs ritual tearing of clothing
  • Mourners take turns shoveling dirt into the grave

Muslim Graveside Services

  • Focus on Quranic verses about Allah’s mercy and eternal paradise
  • Imam leads the prayer and asks forgiveness for sins
  • Body is aligned facing Mecca
  • Three handfuls of dirt are placed in the grave by family

Hindu Graveside Services

  • Include scriptures, hymns, and silent meditation
  • Lighting of funeral pyre with eldest son stoking flames
  • Ashes gathered and typically spread in rivers or sea
  • Food offerings made for the deceased’s soul

Secular Graveside Services

  • Focus on the deceased’s life story and legacy
  • Readings of poetry, literature, humanist passages
  • Custom elements like releasing butterflies or doves
  • May incorporate religious elements if requested

Personalization for the Deceased

While traditional elements anchor the graveside service, most contain personal touches to honor the deceased such as:

  • Photo displays and memorial boards
  • Favorite songs or hymns
  • Poems, writings, or quotations that held meaning
  • Tributes and sharing of special memories
  • Military honors for veterans
  • Releasing balloons or scattering ashes
  • Planting a tree or leaving special objects

These personalized elements allow mourners to pay tribute to the unique life lost.

Finding the Right Words

For many, determining what to say graveside can be challenging. Some tips include:

  • Focus on memories and the deceased’s legacy
  • Share how they touched your life and express gratitude
  • Note any special interests, talents, or quirks they had
  • Highlight virtues and values they exemplified
  • Share scriptures or poems that were significant to them
  • If religious, emphasize their faith and afterlife beliefs
  • Include humorous anecdotes that provide comfort
  • Reassure mourners of ongoing support and friendship

Honest, heartfelt sentiments resonate most with grieving families and friends.

Graveside Etiquette Tips

To honor the deceased and comfort the bereaved, keep in mind:

  • Dress respectfully – avoid casual clothes or bright colors
  • Silence phones and refrain from photos/videos
  • Stand or sit quietly during prayers and readings
  • Offer condolences to family after the service concludes
  • Send flowers, donations, food, or bereavement cards after
  • If military, follow protocols for saluting, folding flag, etc.
  • Comfort mourners but allow space for immediate family

With compassion and care, we can support loved ones in their deep grief at the graveside.

Conclusion

The graveside service is a profound moment of goodbye. While often brief, the prayers, readings, and rituals carry deep significance for those mourning a death. The words spoken graveside aim to honor the deceased, comfort the bereaved, and affirm an enduring faith in life beyond earthly sorrows. By personalizing the service, offering heartfelt tributes, and providing ongoing support in the days ahead, we help the living transition forward while cherishing the memory of those laid lovingly to rest.

Leave a Comment