A Blessing and a Curse.
Those who know me know that I like to sing. Always have, always will. I remember one incident in particular during my 3rd grade class at Wiley Elementary School were we had the opportunity to listen music with headphones as an inside recess activity. I will never forget Mrs. Ensley tapping me on the shoulder and physically removing the headphones off my head to tell me not to sing along with the music. Apparently I had forgotten where I was and I was belting out the words to the song in the middle of classroom. Kids were laughing and I turned as bright as a cardinal in the snow. To say I was embarrassed was an understatement. So no surprise to tell you that a flash forward of 30 years and my love to sing has not diminished at all. What has diminished is the embarrassment factor. I still am found singing in the halls of my office, outside while working in the yard, or even to fill uncomfortable silence when I am left without words to say. I have sung for my church choirs, weddings, funerals, at karaoke, theatrical productions, and in a band. This post is about my experience singing at funerals.
This is going to sound odd, but I enjoy singing at funerals. It is a blessing. I like that God has given me the ability to give comfort to those who are grieving. The first funeral I sang at was for a former choir member at St. Lawrence Catholic Church. A group of us went to sing, and I was nervous, scared, and humbled. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to sing for friends and relatives during this most trying time. It allows me to take my mind off the pain of loss if I am focused on the songs… remember the whole uncomfortable silence thing?
I remember singing at the funeral for my Aunt Marge (My Father’s older sister) at St. Clement Catholic Church in Michigan. The choir director was not familiar with the song I brought to sing so I insisted I sing it by myself. No musical instruments. Nobody to sing with me. I still remember her confusion. “Wait, your going to just sing alone?” she said puzzled. Selfishly I closed my eyes when it was time, and sang to Aunt Marge wishing she were still here. (Okay a confession: I was also singing to my Father wishing he was still here too. BTW, the song was by Colin Raye, Love Remains. ) After the song came the curse. When I was done I became very aware that I was all by myself, separated from everyone. It became abundantly clear that I did not expect or was ready to handle the emotional drain. Fighting back the tears is really hard when you dig deep for the reserves to get through the song. So, this is also going to sound odd, but I also hate singing at funerals for those I know and love. I dread that I will not be able to grieve like I should. The pain I feel usually gets suppressed into some locked away place deep in the brain so that I can focus on the songs at hand. Only to resurface like a firestorm on some random Wednesday afternoon (read: last week). I have gotten good at locking away feelings. If there was a game on the Wii, I would have “pro status” by now.
My Grandma Mayernik’s funeral was the hardest funeral I have had the honor to sing. The service was painful, and magical. Painful, because I was not able to walk in with her casket with the rest of the grandchildren because I was up at the pulpit getting ready to sing. I did not want to miss out on those feelings… that experience. To grieve. Magical, because I got to sing the entrance song Here I am Lord at my Grandma’s request (she had a great sense of humor), and then proceeded to sing the most beautiful Psalm I have, and ever will ever sing, in my lifetime. I think back to this moment a lot. I miss my Grandma Mayernik very much and it comforts me to know that I was given the strength to sing for her and my family that morning.
I often wonder who would sing at my funeral. My children? A niece? A nephew? A good friend? A random person with no connection to me or our family at all? Who will be there to give some comfort to those who are left behind to grieve?
Occasionally, I will have family members give me their requests for songs they want me to sing at their own funerals. I am honored and horrified. It’s strangely weird. Oddly flattering. And a blessing and a curse.