Funeral music can mean so many things to different people.
Trying to choose appropriate music can be a source of frustration for a family in grief. On the other hand, some songs are obviously fitting and make the funeral a very special tribute. One of the first funerals I was involved with in my funeral directing days had a Rolling Stones theme, complete with lifesize cardboard cutouts of the band!
Music can even be the deceased's way of having the last laugh. Two pearlers ...I heard of played at the request of the deceased are "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" and "Highway to Hell" (as the coffin was being lowered!)
Do you have a song that you absolutely want played at your funeral? Or a song that represents your life?
In The Company Of Death: Coming To Terms With Grief And Loss
Ever wondered what to say when someone is grieving? Here is some great advice.
A gentleman just stopped by the funeral home to make sure his wife's Insurance check came through to pay for her funeral. I let him know that it had just come ...yesterday and that his receipt was in the mail.
He started talking about how he lost his dad when he was young. How his dad was a West Virginia coal miner who worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week. And how his dad was killed on his drive home from the airport after four years in the Korean War.
"My wife was everything I had", he said. "The only constant in my life." Then he stopped in the middle of his story and asked, "What am I supposed to do now?"
When asked questions like this, I've learned that no answer is the best answer, so I maintained my silence and he started his story up again. He continued to tell me how they met, how she would always take care of widows in their community and a bunch of little details that create the sacred spaces in a good relationship.
After about 15 minutes of talking, he thanked me for listening and left.
For what it's worth, most of us, myself included, have been taught from grade school that we answer questions with our words ... with our mouths. But it isn't until we're older that we learn many of the deep questions can only be answered with our ears.
Trying to hide death can make the grieving more complex and lengthy. This is a beautiful tribute and sometimes the closest staff can get to being at the funeral of a resident.
A couple days ago I shared a beautiful experience I had at a nursing home. As I shared in that post, when we funeral directors come to remove a deceased person... from a nursing home, most nursing homes have a "hide the body" mentality or a "back door policy" that ushers the deceased out the back door so no one sees it.
As I've come to find out, some nursing homes have a "front door policy" where the death is acknowledged and the dead honored by the nursing home and its staff. My recent experience with this "front door policy" included the nursing staff creating a walk of honor. The staff lined the hallway walls as I left the nursing home with the deceased, acknowledging the life lived and lost.
When I shared my experience with the "front door policy" and the "walk of honor", Lisa B. shared this beautiful photo of how her grandfather's nursing home practiced this acknowledgment of death when her grandfather died. As you can see, the staff is creating this beautiful walk of honor to acknowledge the passing of Lisa's grandfather as he leaves the nursing home. I asked Lisa if I could share the photo with you and she gave me permission.
This act, my friends, is a beautiful step away from death denial and towards death positivity.
Funeral procession etiquette, part 2. This follows on from my post yesterday.
3. A cortege sometimes runs orange lights. Hearse drivers try to time their approach so they can stop if necessary, but sometimes the lights change at the last minute and the hearse has to continue through. The limo may follow to keep the cortege together. (Note, it's never acceptable for them to run a red light and I've never seen it happen.)
I once witnessed a situation where the lights turned ora...nge and the hearse had to continue through. A car then pulled in front of the limousine and stopped at the orange light, preventing it from proceeding. It was completely unnecessary and extremely rude.
4. Be alert. Hearse and limousine drivers are professionals, but other drivers may be emotional and not at their best. We've all driven distracted and made mistakes on the road, so stay a little bit more alert around funeral corteges. (When I was young I almost caused an accident at my Dad's funeral. I shouldn't have been driving, but you don't think of these things when your mind is addled by grief.)
5. Be patient around cemeteries. Hearses slow down on the approach to a cemetery or church, or when leaving a venue with a coffin. They usually won't go far at that pace. Be patient or avoid cemetery access roads.
What's your experience of driving in a funeral cortege? Have you ever encountered a situation you weren't sure how to handle?
Inexperienced, rude and unthoughtful road users can be a point of real frustration, and sometimes danger, for hearse and limousine drivers. When I was working as a funeral director, I occasionally saw some outrageously bad driving, but usually people just didn't know what to do around a hearse. As far as I know there are no traffic laws that specifically pertain to funeral processions in Western Australian. Here are a few tips on etiquette. (This is part 1. Part 2 will follow... later).
1. Drive normally. A hearse will usually go a little slower out of respect, safety and to keep the cortege together. It is not considered rude to overtake a hearse, particularly on dual carriage ways. Certainly don't drive slowly in the right hand lane and block traffic (like happened to me once)! However do be patient on single lane and country roads. They're usually only going a little below the speed limit.
2. Don't cut in on a cortege. The cortege will usually be driving with headlights on low beam, but even if not, a series of limousines or vehicles patiently driving behind the hearse are probably trying to stay together. It's frustrating to have an inattentive driver cut out and then get angry because they're in the slow lane.
Some excellent advice on preparing a eulogy.
In a religious service, usually a friend of family member gives the eulogy. When using a civil celebrant, preparing the eulogy is part of the celebrants role if the family so wishes. Preparing and delivering the eulogy is one of my favourite parts of my job, but there is something much more authentic about a friend or family member giving it.
A half way option is for the celebrant to give a biographical overview while family members or friends make more personal remarks - remembering that the more speakers there are, the shorter should be the remarks.
Vera Lynn is a favorite at many funerals. I must confess, I had no idea she was still alive! Bravo, Dame Lynn.
Dame Vera Lynn is to celebrate her 100th birthday by releasing a new album. Good for her!
Dame Vera's music is popular for funeral services - in fact at a ceremony today, we will hear 'White Cliffs of Dover'.
Yesterday I conducted the funeral for a 21 year old woman who died in a car crash. She was a talented young person who had achieved more in her short life than many people twice her age. She left behind parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and a fiancé. A life of such promise snuffed out in an instant.
It was one of the most emotionally difficult services I have had to conduct - the sort those of us in the funeral industry hope we never have to do.
Take care out there, friends.
Vale Carrie Fisher. I don't make a habit of writing about celebrity deaths, but Carrie Fisher is different. Star Wars is the first movie I remember seeing as a child. It was at Bunbury's "Forrest Drive In". I was 8.
Dad: "Does anyone want to go and see Star Wars?"
Me: "What's that?"...
We went, and nothing was ever the same again.
Princess Leia was my first and always favourite movie princess - now my favourite Disney princess, I suppose. I think she ranked somewhere between Luke and Han in order of favouriteness. (Luke and Leia are siblings? Devastated - who knew?)
She's not the first major Star Wars actor we've lost. I think I felt something similar when Sir Alec died in 2000. That was profound, but also different since Obi Wan was already 'dead'. We expected to see Leia again. Kenny Baker (R2D2) died earlier this year but, no disrespect intended, it was the suit we identified with and R2 'lives' on. We lost Han Solo in Star Wars VII, but thankfully not Harrison Ford. I guess they'll have to retcon Leia's death, or something.
Carie Fisher, of course, was the product of a dysfunctional town - Hollywood. She battled brokenness, drug addiction and mental illness. I don't envy her life for anything. But I'm grateful for the delight she brought us.
2016 was a tough year for celebrity deaths. 2017 will be as well, and on ad infinitum. The Baby Boomers are reaching their seventies and while we're used to people fading into obscurity and the death of a star being announced as of a distant memory, a fair spread of people die relatively young. And between social media and modern technology, celebrities today seem to have a greater sense of immortality about them. If you think 2016 was a bumpy ride, hold on to your hats... or laser blasters.
Anyway, goodbye Carie. Thanks for sharing your life with us.
Remembering loved ones at Christmas 5:
If you're a person of faith, spend some time thanking God for the life of your loved one. Reflect on what inspired you about their life and where you need grace in your own.
Remembering loved ones at Christmas 4:
Sometimes it's difficult to include the memory of your loved one in a Christmas celebration, or you don't celebrate Christmas but reminders of family are all around, triggering memories. Write them a letter telling them what you feel.