15 Famous Poems About Cardinals for a Funeral or Memorial | Cake Blog (2024)

What does it mean when you keep seeing cardinals? Many believe that cardinals are messengers from heaven, bringing signs to loved ones from the divine. But unlike the cardinal itself, cardinal poems are elusive.

Jump ahead to these sections:

  • Poems About Cardinals for a Funeral or Memorial Service
  • Poems About Cardinals and Death or Heaven

So, we scoured personal books and the Internet to bring you the most beloved cardinal-themed poems available for a funeral or memorial service. Commonly, funeral poems about birds or cardinals are popular themes, especially as the symbolism of wings matches that of angels as messengers from heaven.

Poems About Cardinals for a Funeral or Memorial Service

Below are some poems fitting for a funeral or memorial service that’ll remind you of your loved one—ones that speak of their charms or delights and ones that help others recall their spirit and determination.

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1. “Red Bird” by Mary Oliver

We start with “Red Bird” from the late poet Mary Oliver as it’s an homage to all of God's birds as well as the eager resolve of the cardinal. Oliver explains that its bright red plumage shows up every day to a feeder throughout the coldest months, brightening the landscape, delighting in seeing the contrast over the long, cold months.

At a memorial service, her poem would work well for a steadfast friend, devoted parent, or a partner that was your rock when life tried to throw your everything and anything your way.

2. “I Will Try” by Mary Oliver

Continuing, Mary Oliver's poetry peels off the outer layers and reveals intimate truths most people keep inside. In her poem, "I Will Try," Oliver applauds the cardinal and aspires to find momentum forward and live similarly to its beautiful song.

I will try.
I will step from the house to see what I see
and hear and I will praise it.
I did not come into this world
to be comforted.
I came, like red bird, to sing.

Her poem works for that person who never backed down, always picked themselves right back up, and managed to see the beauty through the darkness.

3. “The Cardinals Today” by Robert King

In Robert King's "The Cardinals Today," we find a commentary about the once very stereotypical behaviors of one gender to that of another. Young men studied strength and might, he writes, while young women studied love and mating.

But even as these roles and needs change for humans over time and with years of love, cardinals just keep living and loving just as they always have. The contrast deepens the appreciation for what we perceive as truth, but what is yet unknown or unrecognizable from the human lens.

4. “Cardinals” by John Jackson

Jackson’s poem details the differences between a male and female cardinal. In particular, he compares the female cardinal to the human woman; her muted cardinal colors are not unlike that which is familiar to the human feminine, writing that a woman reveals herself and her love to those who are patient and loving.

The hale-fellow no season can deter;
She an emblem of the feminine,
Because to see all that there is in her
Takes long patience, which is love’s discipline.

5. “The Cardinal Red” by Orrick Johns

Orrick Johns’ decades-old cardinal poetry holds religious undertones. However, if you understand his viewpoints when he wrote this poem, the cardinal may be a metaphor for some sweeping criticism of politics.

However, if taken at face value, cardinals are a standout in the wood as Springtime turns to Winter; their crimson feathers expose greater brilliancy with every snowfall. That small comparison speaks for the aging process, where people become more defined and valued as the seasons carry them along.

6. “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson's poem is about birds in general but aptly applies to the cardinal who weathers the storm yet never seeks help. This tenacious little creature forages all winter long, its vibrancy exposed by the brightness of glistening crystalline snow. Nevertheless, the cardinal sings through it all.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.

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7. “Cardinal Song” by Gregory D. Welch

A common theme for cardinals is an anthropomorphic personality, which is a tenacious, almost defiant spirit, appearing in the morning and out into the cold, no matter the day or temperature.

The cardinal sings in early morning
Carving the cold with fog breath rhythm
A sing song defiance
A feathery red contrast

The cardinal is much like the loved ones we've lost. Even their drive and determinations live on as memories endure.

8. “The Cardinal’s Song” by Krystle O’Brien

"The Cardinal's Song" sets afire the senses noting the morning spring air, the sun rising, and the sound of hungry babes. It'll work for the friend or loved one that embraced the dawn, seeing each day as an opportunity.

Red among the trees
Gentle verses
Sway with the wind
Clarity sets when inhaled
Anticipation of sunrise
With pleasant melodies
Melodic phrases by the pair
More elaborate sung by she

Poems About Cardinals and Death or Heaven

Some believe that visits from a cardinal are representative of a loved one sending them a message from heaven or another spirit world. No matter the perception, if one sweet little bird brings the memory of a loved one near, and especially when you need it most, then there’s great importance in the message.

9. “Red Feathered Soul” by Elle Bee

Many people gravitate to Elle Bee’s poem “Red Feathered Soul” because it resonates with the survivors who believe that cardinals are messengers for the afterlife. In it, Bee writes, “My cardinal song is a call to you,/ To tell you that I miss you, too.”

It’ll work for those who know that their loved ones are in heaven but sending messages of love via the deep canal of the cardinal song.

10. “The Cardinals’ Song” by Emily G. Seberger

When poet Emily G. Seberger invokes her grandmother's memory with that of the visiting cardinal, she's not just retelling a story. Seberger reminds the reader that when we see the things that our loved ones treasured, memories flow in abundance just like the poet’s memories about her grandmother.

As long as they come,
To brighten up my day
And bring me some joy,
To continue on my way.

11. “Red Cardinal” by Madeleine C. Jones

Madeleine C. Jones’s poem is about the grief over the loss of a daughter. As the poet’s head sinks heavily into a pillow for a springtime nap, she notices a red cardinal resting upon her windowsill. While dozing off, she recalls the spirit of her daughter, one that was full of vigor.

Once awake, she notices that the cardinal is still there. Jones writes,

All I do to the bird is smile on this Sunday,
Because I see that my daughter is not flying away.

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12. “The Cardinal” by Pam Waters Carson

Pam Waters Carson’s sweet poem about being protected and supported by God resonates with many people seeking answers and pathways to living better. Her poetry isn’t easy to find, so we’ve copied the entire poem here:

The Cardinal sits upon the branch.
He does not know which way to glance.
He only knows that God above
Is looking down in deepest love.
I look to you dear God above
And pray for your redeeming love,
To guide me through my nights and days,
And flight my fleeting fears away!

13. “Visitor From Heaven” by Unknown Author

Here’s a short little poem that’ll work well if written on a card or a friend’s social media page. To amplify the message, find a card with the picture of a cardinal on the front or upload one of your own for them to see.

I saw a cardinal in my tree,
the bright red color
so beautiful to see.
thoughts of loved ones
brought a smile to my face,
as I watched it flitter
about with grace.
Visitors from Heaven
they are said to be,
I feel blessed that
you came to see me.

14. Untitled Poem by Victoria McGovern

Envisioning the cardinal acting as a direct messenger of a loved one adds comfort in times of great sorrow.

Here, in McGovern’s short poem, she hopes that you’ll go about your day as usual. Make some tea, go outside and enjoy it, and then wait for the sign. She writes,

May you come to find comfort in and remember —
Cardinals appear when angels are near.
So go now, sit outside and drink your tea.
Keep a look out for the little red bird —
It is there, your loved ones will be.

15. “Red Bird Explains Himself” by Mary Oliver

Perhaps we’ve saved the best poem for last. Here, in “Red Bird Explains Himself,” Mary Oliver offers the readers an explanation of the cardinal’s purpose. In the first few lines, Oliver announces a bird’s life as a caretaker, partner, and parent. She then goes on to write,

If I was the song that entered your heart
then I was the music of your heart, that you wanted and needed,
and thus wilderness bloomed that, with all its
followers: gardeners, lovers, people who weep
for the death of rivers

For the grief-stricken survivors, understanding the greater purpose and connectedness of the spirit world or afterlife with communication here and now provides solace when most needed.

The Spirituality and Symbolism of Cardinals

Cardinals are more than birds that symbolize death; they’re birds that illustrate the life of a loved one’s spirit after death.

And for many, it’s part of an essential healing process to see and infer someone’s voice or spirit reaching out through the beauty and mannerisms of the colorful but determined cardinal.

  1. Dickinson, Emily. “Hope is the Thing With Feathers.” Poets.org, Poets.org, n.d., poets.org/poem/hope-thing-feathers-254
  2. Seberger, Emily. “The Cardinal’s Song.” Family Friend Poems, Family Friend Poems, February 2006, familyfriendpoems.com/poem/the-cardinals-song
  3. Welch, Gregory D. “Cardinal Song.” Medium, Medium, 26 November 2019, medium.com/scribblerpress/cardinal-song-8737beb1cc2
15 Famous Poems About Cardinals for a Funeral or Memorial | Cake Blog (2024)


What is the poem about cardinals at funerals? ›

May you come to find comfort in and remember cardinals appear when angels are near. So go now, sit outside and drink your tea. Keep a look out for the little red bird — It is there, your loved one will be.

What is the famous poem about Cardinals? ›

Red Feathered Soul” by Elle Bee

Many people gravitate to Elle Bee's poem “Red Feathered Soul” because it resonates with the survivors who believe that cardinals are messengers for the afterlife.

What does a cardinal symbolize when someone dies? ›

Many people believe seeing a cardinal is a “sign” that those who have passed are with us in spirit. These people believe that the redbird is carrying a message from a deceased mother, father, sister, brother or friend. The bird is seen as a go-between from the great beyond to those still here on Earth.

What are the words to the funeral poem Remember Me? ›

Remember me when I am gone away, Gone far away into the silent land; When you can no more hold me by the hand, Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay. Remember me when no more day by day You tell me of our future that you planned: Only remember me; you understand It will be late to counsel then or pray.

What is the saying about cardinals and loved ones? ›

A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you.

What is the message of the cardinals in heaven? ›

“The most common interpretation of a cardinal is a message from a departed loved one,” according to Thayer Birding. “Whenever you see one, it signifies that they are visiting you. They generally appear when you need or miss them the most.

What is the old saying when you see a red cardinal? ›

It's said that cardinals appear when angels are near and that the cardinal represents loved ones who have passed away. They are seen as messengers from Heaven who deliver words of love and comfort during difficult times. If you see a bright red cardinal, it means that you are being blessed with good luck and fortune.

What is the saying about cardinal birds? ›

There are several common variations of this pithy saying: When God sends a cardinal, it's a visitor from heaven. When a cardinal appears in your yard, it's a visitor from heaven. Cardinals appear when angels are near.

What is the legend about Cardinals? ›

Cardinal birds are a symbolic bird as it symbolizes positivity amidst the troubles we experienced in our life. There is a quote about this belief that goes, “Cardinals appear when Angels are near.” Because of this, many have been associated with Cardinal sightings in their property to their departed loved ones.

When God sends a cardinal after someone dies? ›

There are some who believe that cardinals symbolize the blood of Christ. Some people think that loved ones who have died send cardinal birds as messages to the afterlife. If a Christian has just suffered the loss of a loved one, seeing a cardinal may serve as a reassuring indication that everything is well.

What bird symbolizes death of a loved one? ›

Raven. Ravens are larger than crows and have a different tail shape and flight pattern. Ravens and crows are both black birds that act as a symbol of death or mourning.

What animal represents a lost loved one? ›


A butterfly may represent the soul of a relative or loved one that has recently passed away. There are around 18,500 butterfly species worldwide. In Irish culture, butterflies represent the trapped souls of the dead. In another instance, butterflies are a forewarning of death in the Philippines.

What is the poem for funeral smile? ›

I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done. I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, Of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.

Which poem is used to mourn the dead? ›

An elegy is a poem that reflects upon death or loss. Traditionally, it contains themes of mourning, loss, and reflection.

What is a poem usually written to mourn the dead? ›

An elegy is a sad poem, usually written to praise and express sorrow for someone who is dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, you might later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave.

What is the song of the cardinal? ›

Both male and female Northern Cardinals sing. The song is a loud string of clear down-slurred or two-parted whistles, often speeding up and ending in a slow trill. The songs typically last 2 to 3 seconds. Syllables can sound like the bird is singing cheer, cheer, cheer or birdie, birdie, birdie.

What is the poem Funeral Rites about? ›

Seamus Heaney's poem “Funeral Rites” emphasizes social awareness, especially in its overt references to the violent "Troubles” between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

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