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Advice for the future: plan your funeral music now

Three friends die in a car accident, and they go to an orientation in heaven. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”

The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor in my time and a great family man.”

The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and a school teacher who made a huge difference for our children of tomorrow.”



The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say S “Look he’s moving!'”

Although it’s still a joke, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that some day at a funeral. I’ve heard just about everything else.



In my line of work, funerals are just part of the job, and an interesting part they often are. I have had the recently bereaved request really bizarre additions to the standard funeral service. They range from whiskey bottles in the casket to Waylon Jennings on cassette. Once a widow wanted her dearly departed sent off with a smile forced upon his already rigid features. (I tried but couldn’t). Then there was the family that forced the kiddies to kiss dead Granny. (One refused.)

I suppose the greatest source of discomfort comes from the selection of music. Although I do try to be tolerant when it comes to funereal tunes, I draw the line at Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

All this comes to mind because of a recent article in The Denver Post that deals with just this dilemma. It was good to read there are priests, pastors and rabbis even more curmudgeonly than me. In one diocese back east, the bishop has banned the singing of “Danny Boy” at funerals, a practice practically de rigueur at any Irish-American assembly. He’s lucky he’s not up for re-election.

Funeral homes and churches all over America are

readjusting their musical collections to better fit our changing community’s wishes. Out goes “Taps,” “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace,” and in their place are “I Will Always Love You,” “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

I have a friend who has asked for a solo sax rendition of “Night Train,” which seems reasonable enough. I worry about setting a precedent, however. What happens if somebody else wants

“Seventy-six Trombones”?

As for me, I’ve made my wishes known in writing. I want to go out with the largo from Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” ringing in the ears of those who still can hear. The Czech composer took his theme from an old spiritual, “Going home. Going home. We are going home.” It’s a nice, if final, thought, don’t you think?

By the way, (and forgive my presumption, but the fact of the matter is dying is a matter of fact), it really is a considerate act to provide your loved ones with the details of your departing ceremony.

Be specific. Tell your folks what music you want played or what poems you want read. It’s been my experience there is a lot of needless worrying over what the dead would want done.

Save your family some trouble by pointing out precisely what you’d like to see – even though you probably won’t be seeing too precisely by that point.

I have a pastor friend who has collected the favorite joke of every one of his parishioners. When their time comes, he tells the joke at the funeral.

No one has complained yet. You might want to include a joke or two yourself. Just remember where it will probably be told.

In my religious tradition, this coming Wednesday is the start of Lent. We spend the day remembering “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” A grim thought, perhaps, but certainly a true one.

There’s no getting around it, so you might as well plan for it.

I have it on good authority that when you’re laid out so fine and finally in that long wooden box, no one is going to say, “Look he’s moving!”

Have a nice day.

Columnist Rich Mayfield appears Saturdays. He is pastor of Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon.


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