With only two weeks remaining before my return to Australia and to the world of full time employment, I am keen to complete this 30 Day Song Challenge (which incidentally, has occupied over two months now). I have been dreading today’s song choice because it constitutes one of those ‘don’t go there’ topics. The famous quote “the only certainties in life are death and taxes” (attributed to both Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain) is a fatalistic proverb which suggests that because we have no choice but to experience both, impending death should somehow ease our dread of taxes. I don’t understand taxes anymore than I comprehend death, but I suppose there is a connection with working to pay ’the man’ before you ‘meet your maker’. Still, I think it’s a sardonic quote that provides little reassurance or comfort in the face of mortality.
I much prefer this from Margaret Atwood, who said the following about novels “if there must be deaths, let there be resurrections or at least a heaven so we know where we are”. If you haven’t guessed by now, the theme for today is a song you would play at your funeral. One of the most curious characteristics of most people is the reluctance to consider their own mortality let alone plan for their own funeral. As life insurance and legal companies are quick to point out, this neglect can lead to unfortunate consequences for family and loved ones left behind, with them having to make some difficult choices during a time when all they want to do is grieve. Perhaps if we regarded each breath as potentially our last, we might live life differently and thereby leave a better legacy for our loved ones. Thinking and talking about death doesn’t have to be morbid, it need not detract from the enjoyment of life. On the contrary, this could be a liberating attitude, enabling an unabashed celebration of life.
It seems to me the capacity to hold the joy of life without being overwhelmed by the sorrow of loss is a gift that requires an acceptance of impermanence, a deep spirituality and an unwavering faith in something bigger than this mortal existence. I strive for this acceptance in my life, yet struggle with missing those who have passed on to another place. Funerals should give release to these conflicting emotions, giving mourners permission to laugh, cry, reflect and be grateful for life itself. Today is my father’s birthday, he would have been seventy-eight. Last year, my mother chose two beautiful songs for his funeral and to this day almost eighteen months later, I cannot bring myself to listen to those tracks. One day I will write about the experience and the songs that were playing as we entered the chapel with bowed heads and as we left, carrying my father’s coffin. At this point in my life, my preference would be a funeral dominated by music, with a songlist reflecting my eclectic tastes, featuring many of the artists foregrounded in this blog. To bookend my own funeral service, I would like two songs by a couple of my favourite contemporary musicians, Ben Harper and Sarah McLachlan. Just like death itself, they need no introduction or explanation.
Causes Cindy Sullivan Supports
Plan: 'Because I'm a Girl'
Fred Hollows Foundation