"What would you like to include in your funeral, if possible (people, music, rituals, etc.)?"
Four years ago, this question on the Advance Directive form forced me to think, and I'm still thinking as I review my Advance Directive due to health changes. I prefer classical music over other types and had made a list of specific composers but nothing more. I'd like a memorial service that's like an Irish wake — a remembrance and celebration of my life and life in general. Now I have a different question.
What purpose do I want the music to have at my memorial service?
A celebration, to me, means upbeat, lively music in major keys — like dance music and scherzos. I'd like the music to reflect my personality. For example, the first piece that pops into mind is Claude Debussy's "Golliwog's Cakewalk" from Children's Corner. Debussy captured perfectly the awkwardness I often feel, and my sense of humor.
But would friends and family agree? If my parents were alive, I imagine they'd choose 1960's rock 'n' roll as heard on American Bandstand. I loved to dance to that music. I can imagine friends suggesting the musical Cats, not only because I love the T.S. Eliot poetry it's based upon, but also because I'm a cat person (although I've never seen the musical).
Another purpose of music for mourning is to soothe the hearts of the living. To comfort them in their loss. What music would I choose to comfort friends and family?
I would want the music of J.S. Bach first — e.g. his Suites for Solo Cello, his French Suites for piano, or the Goldberg Variations. Or maybe the A-major Piano Concerto. Then I'd want a Beethoven string quartet — I haven't yet decided which one. Followed by the Dvorak Violin Concerto with its dark passions and dancing melodies. There's so much music I'd want, it's difficult to winnow it down. Good thing I have some time to do it.
At the memorial service's end, though, I want friends and family to hear two jazz pieces by Dmitri Shostakovich: the "Waltz 2" from Jazz Suite No. 2 and "Tahiti Trot," in that order. Why? First, jazz is not something one thinks Shostakovich composed, and I love that unexpectedness; second, they're wonderful; and third, they are me. I find them especially comforting in their sublime jazz, humor, and life. The perfect music to end my memorial service.
I realize that's a lot of music for one memorial service. Maybe I need to have two? No, just kidding. What I may choose for my memorial service could be very different from what friends and family might choose. I could make suggestions and leave the final choices up to them, or I could instruct them to play specific pieces. One thing I know they'd respect and honor: my profound love for music and all it does for the human heart and soul.
Music helps us remember those we've lost, it helps us to grieve, and it helps to comfort us. When Prince died so unexpectedly this past April, the first impulse was to play his music, dance to it, and wear purple — what we associate with him. Associations through music are comforting.
Cinda Yager writes essays, fiction, and two blogs in Minnesota. She loves classical music and has just published an e-book novel set in the classical music world, Perceval's Secret.