Why I love funerals

Sometimes the best things are those that we stumble upon.

It was never part of my plan to play the organ for funerals, but it just so happened that I became a church organist because I could play the piano and there was a vacancy on the organ stool.

And so it was that playing for funerals became part of the rhythm and texture of my life and has been for the past 20 or so years.

Each funeral is different

Some funerals are huge standing-room-only affairs – 400 people squashed into the space with not enough orders-of-service to go round and with trouble being heard at the back.  Others are pitifully small and lonely.

Sometimes the person who died is someone who has approached death without fear and who leaves an inspiring legacy to her mourners.
Other times the coffin is shockingly small, carried by a mother and father in unbearably poignant steps.

Some families know exactly how they want the service to be conducted. They are well organised.  I have time to practice and my brief is clear.

Other times – and I enjoy these more, if I’m honest – I’m waiting for the hearses to arrive before I can find out what tune they want to what hymn and what I should do with this rock band that has turned up unannounced and set up in the corner.

I am humbled to be taking part

But whatever kind of funeral it is – black or white, peaceful or tragic, smooth or veering on the chaotic – I always feel profoundly humbled to be taking part.

What can you say to people who are bereaved?  Not a lot.  Words lose their currency in the rawness of grief.

But music….quietly playing as families hold cold hands and kiss their beloved’s face before the coffin lid is  closed…offering suggestions of amazing grace, hints of heaven’s morning breaking….

I am so honoured. It is one of the best things that I do.

Image on blog menu page: @szbrozek


Comments: 4

  1. John says:

    Yes, farewell the the great kite-maker from Barbados, his bass line in “Bread of Heaven”, sharp double-breasted suits and his mischievous Mickey Mouse ties… May he rest in peace, rise in glory, and teach us a little more of what it is to be alive,

  2. Ah! That will be our Leon, you’re talking about. I wish I’d done an improvisation on the bass line of Guide Me Oh now. We shall miss him. x

  3. Virginia Moffatt says:

    What a beautiful piece Jo, brought tears to my eyes. So glad you give this very important gift to people at the moment they most need it.

  4. Thank you, Virginia. I like playing for funerals so much more than weddings. At weddings I feel an imperative to be perfect. At funerals I see my mistakes as reminders of the frailty we are all embracing.

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