I’m not supposed to be here (see previous post) but I can’t resist abandoning packing my water wings for a moment in order to give vent to what may or may not be justified crossness.
Funerals have, by many people who ought to know better, been subjected to a reductio ad absurdum: three songs and a piss-up. It’s Grief Bypass therapy, and I’ve capped those words because so many people are peddling it. It seeks to make death manageable by trivialising it — it seems to me.
Given that funerals are about people and loss — people who may have been adored, reviled or anything in between; loss that is vast — you’d think that people would have to be emotionally retarded to fall for it. Joanna Yeates’s parents didn’t. But Co-operative Funeralcare’s marketing people seem to have shown that you can never go wrong by underestimating the taste of the British public. And now the Dying Matters Coalition is joining in.
Dying Matters, funded by taxpayers’ money and charged with getting people to confront end-of-life issues, has already given birth to A Party for Kath. Now it has published a web page titled Alternative Funeral Songs. It regurgitates a survey by the Children’s Society (search me) of favourite funeral songs and lists the top ten alternatives, too boring to relate. It goes on to say:
Here at Dying Matters we have a few suggestions of our own. How about: ‘Bat Out of Hell’, Meatloaf; ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, Queen; ‘Highway to Hell’, AC/DC; ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, Bob Dylan; ‘Reach for the Stars’, S Club 7; and ‘Dancing On Your Grave’, Motorhead.
Have you chosen an off-the-wall track for your funeral? Let Dying Matters know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will, of course, retain your anonymity unless you tell us you are happy for us to use your name.
Ha ha ha. Haven’t we heard this all before?
I’ve been the celebrant at a funeral which concluded with everyone singing Burn, baby, burn. It was outrageous and very funny. But context was all, and in the circumstances it was sung in a spirit of love, grief and anger. It was as powerful as a dies irae, not played for a larf.
Humour is important. It’s (on occasion) a great channel for pain and misery. It’s deadly serious, not an escape valve for an escapist snigger-urge.
But perhaps I am being too harsh or pious or puritanical. And if I am you’ll be cross enough to tell me so. You may or may not persuade me. But I think I’ll always incline to a treatment of loss more in the spirit of this wonderful tribute to his father by Simon Usborne.