I read a few years ago, that a 60-year-old Texas woman entered a competition at a minor league baseball game and won first prize which was a slap-up funeral and a burial plot to the value of $10,000. She was understandably relieved to find that she didn’t have to claim the prize immediately, as it fortunately wouldn’t expire until after she died. The competition included taking part in a pall-bearer race, a mummy wrap and a eulogy delivery.
“Come up and collect your prize: The Funeral Of Your Dreams.”
On the cheerful subject of funerals, I happen to be quite an expert, having played the organ or piano for hundreds at various churches when I lived in Johannesburg. The music and hymns were usually left for me to choose, as most people didn’t have a clue on this subject. I always picked songs that I imagined most people were vaguely familiar with, like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, in the vain hope that the congregation would be able to sing them, but I usually ended up singing a duet with the vicar, and he was certainly no Pavarotti.
The most amusing funeral I played for, if there can be such a thing, was for that of a white hospital matron. Her mostly black staff had come along to honour her memory, and were very keen to sing a song for her. They told me that they didn’t want any accompaniment on the organ, so I had absolutely no idea what they were going to sing, and neither had the vicar. Imagine everyone’s surprise when they launched into a very spirited rendition of that old wartime song, ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’, accompanied by the swaying and dancing that African choirs do so well and with such gusto. It was actually rather jolly and quite uplifting and refreshing. No-one could possibly be miserable after their enthusiastic performance. I spoke to one of the ladies afterwards, who informed me that at the last funeral they sang for, their song of choice was, ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day’. A very apt song, don’t you think? 😕
Now, on much the same subject, I once read that a Church of England vicar had to apologise for his rant about the rise of secular funerals, characterised by “ear-splitting songs and bad poetry.”
He lamented the decline of Christian farewells centred on a “beautiful requiem mass” and said that he actually felt “spiritually unwanted.” He announced that he was absolutely fed up, and “felt like a lemon” presiding at a funeral where the casket was brought in to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the best’, and with Frank Sinatra singing in the background, ‘I did it my way’, as the bodies of people with “no hope of the resurrection are popped in the oven.” Of course his outburst caused a bit of an outrage, and dozens of people accused him of being arrogant and insensitive. In his apology, he did an about turn, and said that said he was “delighted if music of any type was a comfort to mourners.” I think one of his superiors must have had a few words with him. I personally think that vicars must learn to adjust to the times we’re living in. What do you think?