Have you ever stopped to give some thought about your own funeral service? What is it that you would like people to say about you when you have died? What songs would you choose to epitomise your life? Who would you most like to be present?
Many consider it morbid to devote much time to thinking of such things: “Why let death depress you when there is so much of life to be lived?” To have an unhealthy preoccupation with death can be destructive, yet we need also to affirm the need to keep some sense of focus about what we would ultimately like to achieve in life. This is true at all stages of life, whether in our teens, thirties or thriving years.
I listened to a funeral director during the week as he detailed the common songs that are used in funeral services today. While hymns still find a place, it is a diminishing one, with songs such as “Wind beneath my wings” and ‘A Touch of Paradise” much more commonly used. Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life” (from the ‘Life of Brian’) also gets a guernsey at many services.
In many ways these songs indicate the values and aspirations of people of our time. They find inspiration, help and hope in places other than christian hymns, whose language and music doesn’t seem to connect at life’s meaningful moments. We have lost the ability to express human and divine aspirations in the vernacular of popular culture.
We do well to consider the values and hopes expressed in such circumstances, not to judge, but to get an insight into popular thinking, and perhaps to see hints of the divine. For example, Monty Python’s song, sung by Brian as he hangs on a cross, expresses the Python philosophy: that life is absurd and the only proper response is to laugh at it. One verse begins “Always look on the bright side of death… just before you draw your terminal breath… Life is so absurd…” Having been able to discern no meaning to life, the only recourse is to laugh at it.
Christians should also be able to laugh in the face of death, knowing what lies beyond. I remember David Wilkerson’s response when Nicky Cruz threatened his life: “You can’t kill me, I’m already dead!” But our laughter is born of hope, not despair; nurtured in meaning rather than lack of it.
Is there a song for you, that expresses the hopes and dreams for your life? A thought or saying which encapsulates God’s calling for your life? How is your life today building a step towards its fulfillment?
August 11, 2002