Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dying Thoughts

How many of you have thought about what you'd like for your funeral? Beyond cremation and burial, what music do you want? Who do you want to speak and what do you want them to say? Once a group of friends and I wrote our obituaries and it was interesting to consider what I'd like for people to say about me when I die, what I'd like to have accomplished, who might have been born or died in my family, how old I'll be and what I'll die from, where I'd like donations to go.

When my dad was going in for surgery the last week of his life, my youngest sister told him that our sister from Orlando was coming to town. It was rare for her to come unless we were celebrating something and he asked if the doctor had told us to call her.  My sister said no, but that he had said it was serious surgery. My father began to tell her the songs he wanted sung at his funeral and who he wanted for his pall bearers.

To have been so clear at a time when he must have been scared out of his mind tells me that he had been thinking about this for a while.  My sister had the presence of mind to write it all down, and when we had his funeral a week or so later, we followed his wishes.

Over the past three and a half years since his death, I've tried to remember many times the title of one of the songs he requested. I could only remember, as the congregation sang, being very moved by the lyrics and what they might have meant to him. 

Last night I was coming home from yoga and had Pandora on my radio.  How Great Thou Art, a song often heard at funerals, came on and I tried to recall once again the song from the funeral.  And then the very next song that came on was it: Great is Thy Faithfulness (it was this version played by Chris Rice).

Because I couldn't remember the words, I thought that my dad might have chosen it because it was about a believer who had been faithful to God.  My father wasn't perfect by any means--who of us is?-- but I think the early death of my mother was a wake-up call for him and he realized then that many times there are no second chances. 

But tonight, preparing to write this post, I finally looked up the lyrics and now I realize that the song is about God's faithfulness to us. His choice of the song took on a totally different spin. He felt that God had faithfully loved and blessed him. I was touched just as strongly as the day of his funeral. 

Here are the lyrics:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I love that the song, which I'd never heard on that station before though I listen to it every day in the car and at work, came on when I was trying to think of it. 

Feeling blessed myself....


cindi said...

Thank you for blessing us with your words. It never ceases to amaze me how you can spin words together to make the most interesting tapestry. Love you!

mamie said...

Thank YOU, sweet Cindi, for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. Love you too!

Ginny said...

I've long wished to be cremated, largely because I have no wish to be a bother and an expense to my survivors. We grew up with a girl whose name escapes me at the moment whose father used to joke that the family should just stick him in the trash in the morning. I always thought that plan had merit.

Beyond that, I've had no opinions on the subject on the theory that I will be gone and therefore it could hardly matter to me. Do what you wish, you know?

I had never, before I read this piece, thought about funeral arrangements being a chance to make one last statement, one that could be comforting and reaffirming to those left behind.

So I started writing something today.

Unknown said...

Lunch break's over, gotta go. But I had to laugh -- so far, my instructions include the following:

"Eat. Drink. Smoke a little weed. Tell funny stories."

Operator said...

Thanks for sharing this, Mamie. Sitting here crying as a result, for many reasons. It also occurred to me that I don't remember the hymns from my Dad's funeral, but I am going to look it up now. He had pre-paid, but no more.I wrote his obit the night he died;hopefully, i did him justice. I have thought some about my service /obit, all the while hoping my death is not imminent! I used to say I didn't care, because I would be gone, but,truthfully, I do.

mamie said...

Va: Good luck with your writing. Let your people know I'll be bringing the Stamey's barbecue and paper products. :)

Unknown: I hope I get the memo when it's time.

Operator: I've felt teary since writing this. Thanks for sharing your similar reaction. You loved your dad and I'm sure it showed in your tribute to him. Your last line is poetic and beautiful like you. <3