Mahmoud Darwish died on 9 August 2008 at the age of 67, three days after heart surgery at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. Before surgery, Darwish had signed a document asking not to be resuscitated in the event of brain death. According to Ibrahim Muhawi, the poet, though suffering from serious heart problems, did not require urgent surgery, and the day set for the operation bore a symbolic resonance. In his Memory for Forgetfulness, Darwish centered the narrative of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and 88-day siege of Beirut on 6 August 1982, which was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. A new bomb had been deployed, which could collapse and level a 12-storey building by creating a vacuum. Darwish wrote: "On this day, on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb, they are trying out the vacuum bomb on our flesh and the experiment is successful." By his choice of that day for surgery, Muwahi suggests, Darwish was documnting: "the nothingness he saw lying ahead for the Palestinian people."
Early reports of his death in the Arabic press indicated that Darwish had asked in his will to be buried in Palestine. Three locations were originally suggested; his home village of al-Birwa, the neighboring village Jadeida, where some of Darwish's family still resides or in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Ramallah Mayor Janet Mikhail announced later that Darwish would be buried next to Ramallah's Palace of Culture, at the summit of a hill overlooking Jerusalem on the southwestern outskirts of Ramallah, and a shrine would be erected in his honor. Ahmed Darwish said "Mahmoud doesn't just belong to a family or a town, but to all the Palestinians, and he should be buried in a place where all Palestinians can come and visit him."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning to honor Darwish and he was accorded the equivalent of a State funeral. A set of four postage stamps commemorating Darwish was issued in August 2008 by the PA.
Arrangements for flying the body in from Texas delayed the funeral for a day. Darwish's body was then flown from Amman, Jordan for the burial in Ramallah. The first eulogy was delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to an orderly gathering of thousands. Several left-wing Knessets members attended the official ceremony; Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) stood with the family, and Dov Khenin (Hadash) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad) were in the hall at the Mukataa. Also present was the former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin. After the ceremony, Darwish's coffin was taken in a cortege at walking pace from the Mukataa to the Palace of Culture, gathering thousands of followers along the way.