The Day of the Dead – Living with awareness of dying and your funeral ‘songs’

On 1st November most German families will pay a visit to grave yards to celebrate and acknowledge their loved ones. I am reliably informed by relatives in Germany that it’s a national holiday there, and to cite my informant, “so that everyone can remember the deceased.  You literally cannot move around the grave yards due to the vast numbers
of people visiting graves.  It is probably the busiest time of year for
florists and candle sellers.  The grave yards glow all night from the slow
burning candles in red glasses that are left by the mourners”.
What a beautiful way to feel a sense of community with others as you remember your loved one.

Here in the UK we do so little to bring the dead into our living because it seems to me we’re frightened to even think that one day we might die or someone we love will. So we carry on pretending as if this big event won’t happen to us. I think we lose the chance to reflect on how we want our living to be if we continually reject the idea that we will die.

So here’s my contribution to the Day of the Dead. In my family we often talk about our funeral songs and how we want our death and life to be celebrated and acknowledged (it’s one of the ways that I bring an awareness of death into our living but maybe as my daughter says I’m ‘an absolute nutter…[and a ] death freak’). What music would you have at your funeral? Give me your current top three (it’s probably going to change over time), mine have. To get you started here are mine and some of my immediate family’s choices:

Kate

1. Deva Premal                        Om Namo Bhagavate   (moving, inspiring, beautiful, spiritual)

2. Elbow                                  Weather to Fly   (my favourite band, speaks of shared times with my loved ones and celebrates a time when I truly lived fully)

3. Echo & The Bunnymen        Ocean Rain   (A band that I have grown up with; this song reminds me of my beloved, helps me to feel alive and moves me to tears!)

Paul

1. Let It Be                               The Beatles (inspiring song from my favourite ever band of all time – reminds me of growing up)

2. You’ll Never Walk Alone        Gerry & The Pacemakers  (the anthem of my football team, it’s moving, comforting and speaks of family & community)

3. Life’s What you Make It         Talk Talk  (uplifting song, has a strong message0

Joel (17)

1. Noah & The Whale             The First Days of Spring   (inspiring, hopeful, sad and beautiful all at the same time)

2. Damien Rice                        9 Crimes   (invokes a sense of sadness)

3. Bat for Lashes                     Sad Eyes   (I love it and I want people to cry at my funeral!).

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5 Responses to The Day of the Dead – Living with awareness of dying and your funeral ‘songs’

  1. PatP says:

    I like your post and totally agree with you. In the US, we do little as well, other than setting up memorials. In today’s culture, little is thought or talked about in relation to death or dying. The time we have really is short. We would do well to acknowledge this and live in such a way that our lives will have meaning. Thanks for sharing.
    Here would be my top 3, although this list may change during time. 😉

    1. Chris Tomlin – Amazing Grace
    2. Elvis Presley – How Great Thou Art
    3. Danny Gokey – My Best Days are ahead of me ( It’s a happy song )

    • Hi PatP
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your song selections. I had not heard of Danny Gokey so have just tracked him down and his video of ‘My best days…’ – loved it and all the messages that flash up about living fully – NOW. So Great – Thank you

  2. cinzia says:

    Italy is holiday as well, the Day of Death. It would be nice to remember those passed away more often but at least once a year.
    Thanks for your thought.

  3. Derek says:

    Kate – very thought provoking. I don’t know anything about mindfulness but the idea of having our mortality at the forefront of our minds was something Heidegger was very keen on and became a fundamental tenet of existentialism (hang on – can you smell something….?) In fact you could say that his theory of Dasein (“beingthere”) was a precursor of mindfulness. If you really wanted to.

    Back on planet Earth, I’m not sure visiting ancestors’ graves etc has that effect. However, thinking of our own deaths and funerals is a splendid idea (you death freak) and my selection of tunes is as follows:

    Run, rabbit, run – Henry Cotton
    Life’s a Long Song – J Tull
    Overture from La Traviatta – Verdi (only the first 1’20”, so the pall bearers would have to run down the aisle)

    Yep – I think that covers all the bases.

    Pip, pip!

    • Thanks Derek! Think I’ll need to do a bit more research to be able to comment intelligently on Heidegger & Dasein… I’m sure we can get you to the front in time if we find somewhere with a short aisle; just listened to 1’20” – almost unbearably moving.

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