Since we have moved to Tennessee, I’ve been given so many opportunities to share and to serve. Most notably, St Raphael’s Episcopal Church allows me to sing with the choir. I’m not a terrible singer, but usually, I am the pianist and don’t get to sing, so this means a great deal to me.
The choir is so vibrant and so much fun. But the contribution they make – setting the tone for worship and contributing to the sung praises throughout the service – is so meaningful. The director is a dynamo! She has managed to take a disparate group of parishioners and mold them into one voice – not an easy task! To me, music is – to borrow a line from a favorite hymn – the tie that binds – in this case, binding the message in the spoken word to the gift offered by song.
As you may have noted, I tend to ramble a little bit. The point I wish to make, as related to The Abuelita Project, is that music plays an immense part in life. Are there songs that stir memories or emotions for you? For example, do you feel like jumping to your feet and cheering when you hear your high school or college fight song? Unless your children and grandchildren attend the same schools you did, they may not know what those songs are or their significance to you. These are probably wonderful stories waiting to be shared.
Were the special moments in your life marked by song? What was playing on the radio the day you got your driver’s license? What were you dancing to when you fell in love? Did you have “a song” as a couple? Was there a traditional wedding march at your wedding or was there another tune more meaningful to you? For example, when Tom and I married, we had a traditional organ processional (I can’t recall what it was right now other than it was not Wagner (“here comes the bride”)). The recessional was not the usual Mendelssohn, but “Anchors Aweigh” since Tom had served in the Navy.
It really is amazing how music can infuse the present with a whiff of the past. If I hear an instrumental version of “He’ll Have to Go” I’m immediately transported to the Curry County Fair carousel. I can taste candied apple, I can smell popcorn popping, and I can feel my father lifting me up onto a giant, beautiful carousel horse! When I hear Jim Reeves sing it, I just want to sing along – it’s only the instrumental that reminds me of those long-ago late summer evenings at, what was to me at that time, the BIGGEST event of the year!
A list of songs that you should consider putting together if music is an important part of your life, should be the songs you would want to be played or sung at your funeral. Too often, people do not mention their preferences to anyone, and truthfully, it might not matter – after all, the funeral or memorial service is for those left behind, not the deceased. However, I imagine it can be somewhat awkward, especially if the survivors are not close friends or relatives of the deceased, to try and choose hymns and anthems for someone else. At that point, selecting the music is usually left to the clergy or musician involved in the service. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it can be overwhelming to deal with details whilst you’re in the throes of grief.
However, some of us might want to make a final posthumous statement in the form of music! I have a beautiful, witty, funny friend who has a warped sense of humor. She likes to say she wants a closed casket service, and at some appropriate time, I should play “Pop! Goes the Weasel” (I like to think I would play it very slowly, in a minor arrangement, building suspense). Okay, we probably won’t do that, but it’s funny to think about, it’s funny to say, and it makes a funny story to share!
Composing a list is also an opportunity to share your stories – why certain songs are important, what they mean to you. What do you want your survivors to think about as they bid you farewell? (Some churches may not allow secular choices, which may be a consideration, as well). For example, I would like to have a verse from Linda Ronstadt’s rendition of “Old Paint” but I don’t think it would be allowed in certain churches. I can’t say why I love this song so much, other than the picture it paints is heart-warming to me, of a faithful steed carrying his companion on a final earthly ride. To me, it says that death is just the beginning of the next journey. The last verse of “Away in A Manger” is important to me, too. It reminds me that we are loved and there is a place for us with Jesus. And the reprise from “Bring Him Home” – a lovely, heartfelt prayer, speaking in faith and asking for a place in our heavenly home: Bring me home. Or you may want to rejoice in the fact that you lived your life fully, without regret… the chorus of “The Dance” might be a nice way to say that.
Of course, there are a million hymns that are beautiful or uplifting, bolstering our faith, sharing our sorrow, comforting our loved ones. What stories will you tell about music, with music?