Ever heard of the peak-end rule? In the words of Wikipedia:
According to the peak–end rule, we judge our experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak and how they ended, regardless of valency [duration] (whether pleasant or unpleasant). Other information is not lost, but it is not used. This includes net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.
In one experiment, a subjects were exposed to loud, painful noises. In a second group, subjects were exposed to the same loud, painful noises as the first group, after which were appended somewhat less painful noises. This second group rated the experience of listening to the noises as much less unpleasant than the first group, despite having been subjected to more discomfort than the first group, as they experienced the same initial duration, and then an extended duration of reduced unpleasantness.
It works the same with pleasurable experiences, too. The Artful Blogger supplies a good example:
This fact of perception seems to be already in the bones of the most well-regarded artists. For example, I once heard a jazz pianist tell a group of students how to craft a solo improvisation. The cheat-sheet? Build to a strong middle, and make a solid ending…the audience won’t remember anything else. I’ve also seen many orchestral conductors add an especially dramatic flourish to their final cut-off, leading the crowd to go wild, regardless of what came before.
It’s one of those things that seems obvious once you’ve got your head around it. But for those who plan funerals and write funeral ceremonies, it’s clearly important to be understand how your the experience of your work will be evaluated in retrospect.