“Where words leave off, music begins.” – Heinrich Heine

Remembering Loved Ones Through Songs

Remembering Loved Ones Through Songs

I’ve always dreaded music at a funeral. The newly formed lump in my throat throbs as I battle back tears while frantically searching for the tissue I forgot to pack. Once the music starts, all bets are off. I’m a hot, grieving mess. There is something about music that evokes deep emotion within us, especially those classic funeral songs.

Suggested Read: A Classic Goodbye: Popular Funeral Hymns

Traditional Funeral Music

I collect funeral programs. I know it’s a little morbid, but this is my reasoning: The programs are filled with traditional funeral music. This will save me time and research when and if I need to plan a funeral.

Yes, I know we have Google; nevertheless, here are some familiar classics I found:

Ave Maria – Luciano Pavarotti


On Eagle’s Wings – Michael Joncas

Be Not Afraid – Bob Dufford SJ

I Have Loved You – Michael Joncas

Amazing Grace – Il Divo 

Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens

You Are Mine – David Haas

As I looked through the music selections, I decided to play a few. The familiar lump in my throat resurfaced as I waxed nostalgic about people I’d lost. Then, I thought about a jazz funeral I’d witnessed in New Orleans.

New Orleans Jazz Funeral

On vacation, one hot, summer afternoon, we happened upon a funeral procession for a famous jazz artist. We were told it was our good fortune to witness a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral. The music started solemnly but eventually crescendoed into upbeat notes leading to a jubilant display of dancing and singing. With a half grin on my face and a few head bobs in approval, I silently noted to myself “Everybody looks happy!” I promptly decided I wanted cheerful, upbeat music played at my funeral.

Celebrating Your Loved One’s Personality Through Music

Although I love traditional church songs, we don’t need to be limited by them. When we reflect on a loved one’s favorite songs or playlist, the music often speaks directly to their personality. If we’re celebrating an individual who has his or her own unique tastes and perspectives, wouldn’t it be appropriate to incorporate a few of their favorite songs into the service?

Song selections can even be based on a loved one’s life purpose or passion. Ask yourself:

  • What were they passionate about?
  • What causes were important to them?
  • What legacy did they hope to leave behind?
  • What kind of world did they hope for?

There are numerous songs about important issues like the environment, peace, equal rights, education, or animal rights.

Another option is to reflect on the character traits of your loved one. How did people perceive this individual? Perhaps this person was a friend to all, generous, or exceptionally funny. Select music that pays tribute to their wonderful, human qualities.

One well-chosen song can personify a life beautifully.

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