Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Unique Funeral Song

Celebrants will give a family whatever music they want; crematorium staff will play anything (legal) you want. No matter how much some of us may tire of, or hate, "My Way" or "Time to Say Goodbye" we will keep our traps shut and arrange for it to be played. It's not for us, our preferences are irrelevant.

But - when something truly unique happens, how great it is for all present.

Recently, I was told that the Dead Person's daughter had composed a tune to a poem often heard at funerals, "Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep." Fine, thinks your heard-it-all-before celebrant, hope it works, but it's hardly deathless verse. The daughter told me yes, she would get up to sing, though she couldn't guarantee that she'd get through it.

I said that everyone would be on her side, and that if she needed to stop for a gulp or a sip of water, not to worry. But of course, when she came to the front, turned round and stood there quietly, I felt pretty tense on her behalf. No guitar, no mike, no accompanist, about 75 people in the place, her father in his coffin just behind her.

She paused quite some time, breathing deeply and audibly, pressing her palms downwards in front of her, taking full possession of her space and time. Then she started her song in a strong contralto. It was a simple, coherent tune; she reached the highest note OK, reached the end, breathed deeply, laid a hand on her father's coffin for a moment, and then walked back, sat down, and allowed herself to weep.

It was one of the most powerful and moving things I've witnessed in a hundred ceremonies. It was an unrepeatable event, unique to a dead man, his daughter and that time and place.

How privileged we all were that morning.


  1. You have me in tears and it's so very true how there are "unrepeatable events" in funerals. Thank you for reminding us how privileged everyone is to share in those moments...

  2. Thanks, FL, pleased you found this related to your experience.