I would have entitled this post On Death and Dying but that’s been done before.
Since I have a bit more time on my hands and a lot less money, I’ve returned to my cash cow job: musician/singer for hire. It’s a job that only takes me out of the house (away from the little rose) for just a couple of hours per day, one or two days a week. I play the organ (or keyboard) and sing. I can play and sing just about anything a person asks me…provided I have the music. Fortunately, nobody has asked me to play Rachmaninoff!
Let me clarify. I have been a church organist since I was 15, a choral singer since I was about 12 and a soloist since my late teens (not sure exactly when). So the music that I have provided has been vastly sacred over secular. That’s not to say I can’t or won’t do secular. I just haven’t been called on for that. I guess it’s because people just know me for only singing and playing hymns and, at a stretch, the odd classical bit.
How does this relate to death? Well, I’m available to play and sing for weddings and funerals and I tend to pretty much only get funerals. I think some people think it’s difficult or expensive to hire a musician/singer for weddings so they just opt for recorded music. (My rates are VERY reasonable.)
So this leaves me with going to quite a number of funerals to provide music. This could have the potential to bring doom and gloom into my life but I try to maintain an air of professionalism and be the best musician/vocalist I can be. It’s what I’m being paid to do.
That said, whenever I sing or play I’m fully present in my performance. This can sometimes present its own challenges. There are times, for instance, when I have to play a hymn that has special meaning for me personally…such as the hymns I sang and played at my own father’s funeral.
I don’t often know the people I’m playing for. I feel like I’m entering their lives after their earthly life is over. I meet them during the eulogy and I give them a little bit of myself through the gift of music. It’s a strange and special kind of relationship.
Through my attendance at funerals I have learned a great many things. Most importantly: life is precious. I’ve played for a lady who was in her late 90s who had lived a full and happy life, surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also played for a middle-aged couple whose lives where cut tragically short due to a motor vehicle accident. You don’t know how long you have. Live every moment as fully as you can.
Listening to the lives of these strangers through their eulogies gives me insight into who these people were but it also has inspired me to look at my own life. The eulogy is a time where a family member or friend of the deceased tells a little bit about that person. I’ve seen this opportunity to speak used beautifully to describe in rich detail who the deceased was, peppered with a few sweet or amusing anecdotes. I’ve also heard eulogies that rambled and went forever but didn’t really tell me who the person was. At worst, I’ve heard a eulogy delivered in parts by all the children of the deceased who each took turns in saying how they didn’t get on with their parent and now it was too late.
I want to live a life that makes a mark in the world for all the right reasons. I want to be a good mother, loving partner, true friend, loyal family member… The list could go on. I hope I use this one life well and leave the world a little happier for my being in it. I think that’s all anyone could wish for.