Friday, June 19, 2009

Peter - the Funeral Singer

Today is the second anniversary of Mom's death.

Last year all I could think of was roses.

This year is different.

In the past 2 weeks I've done the music at 2 different funerals. It might seem strange, but I think I 'enjoy' playing for funerals more than I do weddings. I feel like I am helping the grief process when I play for a funeral, singing and playing music that is meaningful to the family. Even if I am just playing instrumental music before the service, I try and craft the music I make into wordless prayers of comfort.

At my Mom's funeral, the local Church of England minister went to great pains to tell us how he had met with Mom before she died and enquired into the eternal state of her soul and how he knew she was ready to die and be with Jesus.

At my Dad's funeral, the humanist 'minister' told a brief biography of Dad's life. His passions and achievements. There was no mention of God* because dad was an Atheist and had left strict guidelines for his service.

It seems strange, but Dad's funeral was more comforting to me than Mom's.

I didn't want to hear that Mom was 'safe in the bosom of Jesus' - I knew that, but that knowledge did not comfort the vacuum caused by her death. Dad's service was far more helpful. The Humanist simply acknowledged that death is horrible. He didn't attempt to minimize our grief by telling us that we should feel glad because 'dad was in a better place' - because to a humanist that better place did not exist. I worry what the Church of England Minister would have said had he conducted Dad's service. If we assume that telling the Bereaved that their loved one being with Jesus is the best source of comfort, what do we tell them when our theologies say that they are not with Jesus?

Funerals are not for the dead but for the living. For me, assurances or platitudes about the final destination of the Departed were not helpful. Neither was people telling me that 'They understood how I feel' or 'Time heals all wounds'. I needed people simply to sit with me in silence and tell me that 'Life sucks sometimes'.

A well played instrumental can offer as much comfort as a carefully constructed Eulogy, and sometimes, it offers more.

*Dad was very specific at not having any mention of God at his service - he had actually threatened to disinherit any of us if we gave him a 'Christian Burial'. Then again, dad used to joke about disinheritance a lot!

So we're sitting in the Crematorium and we're at the final part of the service just before the Dismissal. This particular Crematorium had an electric curtain that moved across to obscure the coffin and signify the end. As the curtain began to move, an organist (who we didn't even know was there!) began to play to cover up the whirr of the motor.

What was originally a deeply sad, final moment in the service suddenly turned into my brother and I stifling giggles and desperately praying that Mom would not realize what the organist was playing - 'Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God'!!!!


Deidra said...

Oh no that is funny. Sorry but it is. Yeah I totally get what you said about just wanting people to listen and agree that life just sucks. Hearing that will eventually get over my dads death is not really what I wanted to hear. Good thoughts Mr. Johns.

Lenae Moore said...

Peter, that is a great blog. Thanks so much for posting. A family friend told me after my grandmother died that we were not supposed to be okay with death--we weren't created for it. So when we grieve, we are actually living out the imago dei in our souls--the part that hates death and sin. That helped--it's easy to feel guilty when you think about how happy the loved one is in heaven. But now I know that I'm supposed to hate the separation and the hurt.