After extensive research I have the definitive answer to list-making for funerals.
Maybe not, but I have cast my mind back over the several hundreds of funerals at which I have officiated and celebranted.
I have concluded that the making of detailed lists is rare. Usually a person’s funeral wishes consist of one or two pieces of music and maybe a request along the lines that no-one should wear black. Men are most likely to ask for a particular song because they (rightly) predict that this is the only way they will have any chance of getting the song they want. For example, an elderly gent wanted Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. There was no way his widow would have thought of this had he not specified it. Another man requested that Burning Love be played as the crematorium curtains closed. Even knowing that this was his dying wish, there were a few raised eyebrows as Elvis sang, ‘Lord almighty, I feel my temperature rising higher, higher, it’s burning through to my soul…’
But my favourite for those places where the coffin goes through a door or sinks beneath the floor is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. This was requested by a man who knew his family would have found it difficult to have such an expressive piece of music. I’m occasionally told things like, ‘He always used to say I want Bat Out of Hell at my funeral,’ as though the poor bloke talked of nothing else.
Rarely do people write something to be read at their funerals but, when they do, their friends and family hang on every word. Only once have I known someone to write their own eulogy – it was so long that there was no time for anyone else to talk about him.
Women are more likely to leave a poem tucked away somewhere. How many such poems are discovered after the funeral has taken place? There you are, three weeks after your mum’s loving send-off congratulating yourself on a job well done, when you find a detailed list of requests. Your heart sinks as you read, ‘I’d like to be buried in a wicker coffin’ just after you’ve cremated her in oak veneer.