Celebratory Songs of Transition
When I think of songs to celebrate the end of one’s life, there are several that come to mind, depending upon the kind of life you lived and the music you loved.
Everyone, of course, knows Amazing Grace. It’s such a beautiful song and appropriate for many occasions. It’s been recorded by many solo artists but is even more powerful when sung with a choir or in a group. One of my favorite memories is when Bobby McFerrin came to our local theater. Though best known for his pop hit, Don’t Worry, Be Happy, he has contributed much more to the musical world than most will know. During his show, he divided the audience into three groups and had us sing Amazing Grace in harmony — you’d think we were a professional chorus.
When my grandmother died, she had specified that she wanted us to play a hymnal song called In the Garden. We told that to the minister of the church she had attended for over 50 years and he said, “sorry, our organist doesn’t play that song,” and kept it out of the service bulletin. Apparently he didn’t know my grandmother, or our family, very well. If she wanted it sung, we were going to sing it. So, during my delivery of the eulogy, I announced that my father and her good friend would sing the song. The minister was annoyed, but at that point, he had no choice. Gramma’s friend brought the pitch pipe and she and dad sang the song a cappella. It was beautiful. Here are the lyrics to In The Garden.
One of my favorite movies, Love Actually, has a poignant scene during the funeral of Daniel’s wife, Joanna, in which he recounts that she selected her funeral song. He told her, “Over my dead body” and she replied, “No, Daniel, over mine.” That song was the Bay City Rollers “Bye Bye Baby,” and the scene can be watched here.
Blood Sweat and Tears recorded one of my favorite songs growing up called And When I Die. Like Bye Bye Baby, it’s a great rocking song, and very irreverent — “I swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell” — but I love the final message: “When I die, and when I’m dead, dead and gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.” Wouldn’t it be nice to know that someone else came along to carry on your message?
For a completely different style of music, recently we heard a banjo group called the Old Town Pickers. The lead singer played a song that he had written for his father, called When I Leave This World, which can be heard here.
What songs best reflect your message? What songs would you want to have played in your memory?