20 July 2008

What do you want on your tombstone?

My cousin Deron asked about funeral plannings on his blog today, and because I am happy to think such thoughts, I thought I'd make a post of it as well. I have never been afraid of my own death, partly because I used to hang out in cemeteries and my dad always had a rather matter-of-fact approach to the idea. Deron's planning is much more moving, as his health wavers.

Location: This is a tough one, actually. Immanuel Lutheran Church in my hometown was always where I pictured my funeral would take place. My parents were baptized, confirmed, and married there, and all 4 grandparents' funerals took place there...but it seems somewhat hypocritical. We (Shaun and I and V) do not attend this church, even on holidays, for a variety of personal reasons. My mother is still active there, though. I guess it is still the place I would chose for my funeral, though it is not without qualms.

Music: I love me some good funeral music. At the beginning, I'd like Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash's version of "Far Side Banks of Jordan" to be played. It was at my dad's funeral, and I love that song beyond reason. "Amazing Grace" should be a congregational hymn, because it's so old school. My sister and I sang this for our grandmother and our Uncle John's funerals. I'd like someone to sing "Close Your Eyes," a lullaby by James Taylor. It is the song I sing to V when she is very tired or inconsolable, and the song I sang to my dear friend Kari when we learned she would not wake up from her coma. For the processional out of the church, I would like a small jazz band to play "When the Saints Go Marching In," though barring that, a recording would suffice. It's not that I think I'm headed for sainthood, but playing this song in New Orleans remains one of the most spine-tingling moments of my life.

Readers: This is tough, too. I like it when dear friends and family can read/speak at funerals, but having to perform on such a day is so difficult when you loved the deceased. My cousin Jonathan would be my first nominee, if he feels up to it. He can read whatever he wants. As for Bible verses, Psalm 121 ("I lift up mine eyes to the hills...") is the only one I can think of right now. Oh, and "My Mother's Lullaby," a poem by Margaret Hasse, and also "One Home" by William Stafford. If anyone feels strongly that one of my poems should be read, be my guest.

Homily: Um, with all those readings, I think we're out of time for preaching. I've sat though several funerals that were infuriating, where the minister decided to present his or her own agenda rather than what the deceased and their family would have wanted. My mother still talks about her father's funeral, where the minister, who had been at our church for nearly 20 years and known the family all that time, only said my grandfather's name once during the whole service. She sat there, furious, thinking "Say his name! Say it!" I'd like to avoid that sort of thing.

I want to be cremated, with some of my ashes buried with or near my dad's at Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, and some spread in the Red River, and some spread on my in-laws lake. Those are my favorite places (except for Vegas, but I'm not sure anyone wants to haul me to Vegas. If so, go for it).

Well, now that I've planned that out, how about you? What do you want your funeral to look like?


Tenessa said...

Dan Lee gets full custody of my corpse, and I don't mean that in the dirty way. I'm entirely comfortable with the afterlife, so he gets to choose burial, cremation, or taxidermy as he sees fit. My only request is that he play the song "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive" by Hank Williams.

cricket said...

My computer broke with all my links and then I saw you and thought "I need to read Jen's blog" and so I did and I was not disappointed. You are such a smart, beautiful lady and I loved reading and catching up almost as much as I loved seeing you.

Let us get together again soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jennifer....Long ago I talked with Joel about playing "Ain't Misbehaving" on the piano and prefacing it with "My mom ain't misbehaving anymore". I would like Jennifer and Emily to do Flute and piano(Jen on flute, Emily on piano) and play Pacabel's Canon. Mark could play anything of his choice on either electric or accustic guitar. I have a poem I wrote long ago while waiting for Meagan and I would have her read that poem. I would like all sorts of music at the beginning, many types because I love almost all of it and at the end. Hopefully this will be a long way off and the grandkids will all have something to share about their wild but loving Grandmother and about the wonderful conversations and times together we have had now and in the future. Honor would be given to my Lord. Burial in Mpls at the St. Mary's cemetary, blocks from our house so the family can bring flowers to my grave now and then and maybe toast me with a glass of wine or an ale. I want it to be a celebration and a time of fun for everyone....tombstone maybe will say "a little music, a little dance a little seltzer in your pants" in honor of my mom Eloise, one of her favorite sayings. But because I love my Lord I would have some scripture telling of that love and His goodness to me through the years for when all is said and done that is the relationship that counts the most, without that we are nothing in this life and in eternity. As always I so appreciate your blog my dear. Kathy S.