Some articles about quotes and poems about a life well lived are written for the purpose of a funeral program or a eulogy. But I don’t just enjoy these beautiful quotes and poems when someone dies — I enjoy them everyday and use them as inspiration to live my best life.
These 27 inspirational quotes and poems about a life well lived can certainly be used as funeral poems to celebrate someone special, but I hope you will enjoy them today and everyday to inspire you to achieve happiness and peace in life.
I hope you enjoy them! I have been collecting them for years just because…
Related Article: 10 Golden Rules for Success and Happiness in Life
Short Poems About a Life Well Lived
These are some of the very best inspirational poems for women. The words and ideas convey so many wonderful qualities of strong, happy women. Some are famous poems that you may have heard before; some are less well-known.
This first poem is simple yet profound. Brooke Hampton touches on so many realities of life for women in so few words — she’s simply amazing!
but not in the way
most people accept.
I’m busy calming my fear
and finding my courage.
I’m busy listening to my kids.
I’m busy getting in touch
with what is real.
I’m busy growing things and
connecting with the natural world.
I’m busy questioning my answers.
I’m busy being present in my life.”
— Brooke Hampton
I love, love, love this poem about things in life that we CAN control. We can’t control so many things, so let’s emphasize the many things we CAN control! Here are “26 Things that are Completely Under Your Control.“
How honest you are
Who your friends are
What books you read
How often you exercise
The type of food you eat
How many risks you take
How you interpret the situation
How kind you are to others
How kind you are to yourself
How often you say “I love you.”
How often you say “thank you.”
How you express your feelings
Whether or not you ask for help
How often you practice gratitude
How many times you smile today
The amount of effort you put forth
How you spend / invest your money
How much time you spend worrying
How often you think about your past
Whether or not you judge other people
Whether or not you try again after a setback
How much you appreciate the things you have“
— Caleb LP Gunner
This next poem is filled with great wisdom — much of which we know but do not live. As women, we should focus on the important things in life that S. C. Lourie touches on in this poem.
“Go into this week
with the attitude that
your health of mind,
and your heart
mean more than
getting everything else done.
That your smile matters,
That feeling rested matters.
That holding the hand
of your loved ones matter.
So pause lots,
function at a pace
that doesn’t pull you apart.
Honor the things that
make you feel good inside,
the things that make you feel alive.
Give time to those things this week.
Make time the gift it is,
by giving it to what really matters to you.”
— S.C. Lourie
This is a great but simple poem of empowerment in the face of adversity. All of us can relate to the feeling of FEAR, but we need to be the boss of our thoughts and overcome those yucky feelings.
“Fear is loud and bossy.
She can be vicious at times.
And the worst of it is that
she often mingles truth with fiction.
But you must learn to challenge
the stories she feeds you.
You get to be the boss of your thoughts.
You can learn to question
whether or not
everything she tells you
and nothing but the truth.
Since you have done the work
to deepen self-awareness
when she throws all your past failings
in your face you won’t crumble
because you already know you are imperfect…
AND you are beautiful
of building a
thoughtfully crafted life.”
— Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui
This poem has been reconstructed many times into many variations. But none are quite as precious as the original, believed to be inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson himself. There is nothing so special as the thought that we might make a difference in the world.
“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”
— Author Unknown
Self-awareness and self-acceptance are strong virtues. These simple words reflect the epitome of self-awareness and self-acceptance — use them to be inspired on your self-awareness journey.
“I am not for everyone.
I know my truth,
I know who I am,
I know what I do and
do not bring to the table.
I’m not easy to deal with
but I do bring tons of value.
I bring love and strength,
but I am not perfect,
and if I don’t fit in
with a person or group
that is okay with me.”
— Sylvester McNutt III
Such beautiful words about love and kindness. What’s more important in this world?
“Remember when you go into the world to
keep your eyes and ears wide open.
And be kind.
Love one another.
Take care of each other.
Tell the truth.
Always do your best.
Listen to the big people and the little people.
Explore new paths and have fun.
Know that you are loved like crazy.
Give thanks for all your blessings.
Above all else,
Love and you will do
wonderful things in this world.”
— Rebecca Puig
The next poem, “A Life Well Lived,” is as simple as they come, but the overall thoughts are amazingly profound. Written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, it has a similar feel and message of the previous poem that was believed to have been inspired by him.
“The purpose of life
is not to be happy.
It is to be useful,
to be honorable,
to be compassionate,
to have it make some
difference that you have
lived and lived well.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Care, compassion, and love are positive character traits that help make the world a better place. If you demonstrate these traits, then you will be among the people in the world who have experienced a life well lived. This simple poem puts these thoughts into words.
“It is in the caring
and in the loving
that we find
the deepest level
in our lives.
For our lives are shaped,
through the sharing
of each other’s
only for a
a moment in time.
In this life,
when we find others
encourage our dreams,
and accept all of
we truly find the best
of all possibilities.”
— Sally Gallagher
“I Promise Myself,” also known as “The Optimist Creed,” is a poem written in 1912 by Christian D, Larson about living your best life with humility, optimism, kindness, happiness, prosperity and more — living on the sunny side of life — what more can we want? A few versions of this poem have surfaced over the last century but all are equally as powerful.
“To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to everyone you meet.
To make everyone you know feel that
there is something good in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best,
and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to
greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and
give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that
you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble in your mind.”
“Heads, Hearts, And Hands” was written by George W. Bungay in the 1800’s. Some of his language conveys old-fashioned topics but the concepts behind the words are as important today as they were 150 years ago. I find this poem more touching than many others written in the 19th century.
“Heads that think and hearts that feel,
Hands that turn the busy wheel,
Make our life worth living here,
In this mundane hemisphere:
Heads to plan what hearts shall do,
Hearts to bear us bravely through
Thinking head and toiling hand
Are the masters of the land.
When a thought becomes a thing,
Busy hands make hammers ring
Until honest work has wrought
Into shape the thinker’s thought;
Which will aid to civilize,
And make nations great and wise,
Lifting to a lofty height
In this age of thought and light.
Miracles of science show
With their light the way to go;
Touch a tube of gas, and light
Blossoms like the stars of night;
Touch another tube, and lo!
Streams of crystal waters flow;
Touch a telegraphic wire,
And your thought has wings of fire.
Hail to honest hearts and hands,
And to the head that understands;
Hands that dare to truth subscribe,
Hands that never touched a bribe;
Hearts that hate a deed unjust,
Hearts that other hearts can trust;
Heads that plan for others’ weal,
Heads poised over hearts that feel.”
— George W. Bungay
Mary Oliver published most of her prose and poetry in the late 1800’s. Her writing was often centered on nature, life, death, love, and gratitude. The next two poems, “Wild Geese” and “When Death Comes,” are two of her most famous poems. I absolutely love the final line of the second poem — “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
― Mary Oliver
I found pearls of wisdom in this next poem. The idea of making the ordinary come to life is magical — it’s what we talk about when we learn to be mindful, present, and grateful. We don’t need extraordinary in our lives as long as we have gratitude and know how to celebrate the little things.
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
— William Martin
BONUS: Keep Your Fork
While this contribution doesn’t exactly fit into the poem or quote category, it is without a doubt one of the best stories about a life well lived. Therefore, I have chosen to include it in this article.
Additionally, it has great personal meaning to me. It could have been written about my own mother and we used it in her funeral program in 2013.
Some people genuinely believe they will find a beautiful world on the other side of this life. They have the precious gift of hope for a brighter better place on the other side.
A woman was diagnosed with terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her preacher to come by her house to discuss her funeral.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures to read, and what dress she wanted to be buried in. She also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. As he prepared to leave, she suddenly remembered one more thing. “I have one more request,” she said excitedly.
“What’s that?” the preacher replied.
“This is very important,” she continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The preacher looked at her, not knowing quite what to say.
“That surprises you?” she asked.
“To be honest, I am puzzled,” he replied.
The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church fellowships and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part, because I knew that meant something better was coming . . . like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful!
So I want people to see me in that casket with a fork in my hand. When they ask you, ‘What’s with the fork?’
Then I want you to tell them, ‘She believed the best is yet to come.'”
Roger William Thomas (1996, A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul)
Quotes About a Life Well Lived
There inspirational quotes are among the very best quotes about a life well lived. Some are famous quotes that you may have even heard before.
“The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” — William James
“The man is a success who has lived well, loved much, and laughed often.” — Robert Louis Stevenson
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West
“Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.” — Buddha
“We must each lead a way of life with self-awareness and compassion, to do as much as we can. Then, whatever happens, we will have no regrets.” — Dalai Lama
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” — Maya Angelou
“Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved.” — D.H. Lawrence
“Not how long, but how well you have lived is the main thing.” — Seneca
“Happiness is not a goal. It’s a by-product of a life well-lived.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’” – Hunter S. Thompson
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” — Albert Einstein
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver
I chose the best poems and quotes about real life things such as happy times, practical guidance, grateful hearts, the purpose of life, good friends, happy memories, sunny days, life lessons, and other inspirational messages. I hope these messages will help you live a more meaningful life for the rest of your days!
I chose not to include any anonymous poems or quotes because there were so many wonderful ones that could be fairly attributed to their creators.
Use any or all of these great poems and quotes as inspiration to live a legacy of joy every day. You have the choice to live a beautiful life today — don’t wait until your funeral service when it’s too late.
Love to ALL! ~ Susan
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Which Were Your Favorite Quotes & Poems About a Life Well Lived?
Please share in the comment section below:)