Making A List

Charles 6 Comments


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.


  1. Charles

    I haven’t written any funeral wishes but occasionally I’m tempted to plan every last detail. Perhaps I will think about one piece of music that my family can say I chose.
    As a celebrant, I feel most uncomfortable when someone requested that ‘everyone should have a party’ or ‘I don’t want anyone to cry’. I’d rather they said something along the lines of, ‘Have a good cry and then remember me with a smile.’ Or say nothing at all. Just let everyone get on with it in their own way.

  2. Charles

    I am celebranting at a funeral this week where the dead one has written his own eulogy. The words are so powerful – so ‘in his voice’ and his style that it is more personal than any so called hilarious memory (they are rarely even funny to anyone else but those involved). There is no need for anything else really ….well not on this occasion. He leaves no dependants who might want to speak or have input so it should work beautifully – and a book of remembrance at the gathering afterwards gives everyone their opportunity to tell their funny memories.

    The best funerals I have done are the ones where the dead one has ‘spoken’.

    1. Charles

      I know what you mean Quokkagirl about those ‘hilarious’ memories shared by well-meaning friends. They can fall very flat. Perhaps I’d better start writing!

  3. Charles

    Hmmm M C I downloaded a form from The Natural Death Centre after reading this – it’s for my funeral wishes. I am finding it really really hard to complete ! I’ve been to funerals that were totally prescribed and felt very uncomfortable – there was a sense of ‘controlling’ that the person had effected all through his life that was frankly unpleasant. I’ve also been to funerals where mourners have agonised over their decisions and searched cupboards and wardrobes for clues as to what the person wanted, I think it’s rather nice and no doubt therapeutic for families to negotiate the details together. It can also provoke world war three, subterfuge and unparalleled deceit as family members battle for control!

    I’ve ended up leaving ambiguous requests … and a choice of music .., readings and disposal options! So probably less use than nothing!

    1. Charles

      Seems about right to me Jed. At the beginning of this week I received a leaflet from Dying Matters – called ‘My Funeral Wishes’. It’s not too detailed but it includes things most people might not consider like ‘preferred funeral director’. That would save a lot of ringing around for friends and family. And (very important for me) would you be happy for people ‘to view your body’. The answer is no so if they want to see me dead they’d better be with me when I die!

  4. Charles

    A few committal music options for my list (assuming a cremation):
    The Doors – Light My Fire
    Loony Tunes “That’s All Folks” Music
    Arthur Brown – Fire

    Oh, and a conveyer belt is a bit boring. What about a coffin roller coaster down the aisle of the crem?

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