I'm all up for having a laugh at a funeral. I think it can be an important way of remembering the deceased. Sharing those family jokes that have been repeated time after time, with ever increasing enthusiasm down the years, as though no one has ever heard them before.
But there was a supplement in my paper on Saturday that shocked me. It was entitled "Welcome to life after 50", which seems to be something that is becoming increasingly relevant.
The front page was a picture of a grey haired woman in a leather jacket, astride her motorbike. I dived in hoping to find out that after 46 years of failure, I might finally develop a socially acceptable image, in the third quarter of my life. The next two pages offered hope. There were the usual athletic looking older people, who seem to have bypassed the middle aged spread, and spent their money on surf boards and yachting holidays, rather than cakes and crisps. Time was on my side. If I started now I might manage to be as healthy as they are by the time I'm 70!
I turned over hoping for more latter life hope, only to find that the next four pages, accounting for 2/3's of the supplement, where entitled: "Drawing up a will", "Funeral Finance" and "The Final Journey" - which wasn't a world cruise, but rather how you can organise the perfect send off for yourself.
I've always thought organising your own funeral rather strange. You'll be the one person on the day who's not bothered by what's being said or sung. Though I suppose that making a few decisions before your demise will take the worry from your loved ones as to what "you wanted".
What shocked me was the "Top Ten Funeral Songs". Here they are, in reverse order, with a brief comment by me...
10. I vow to thee my country - Great tune. First verse is pledging your first love to Blighty. Second verse looks to heaven. It's a bit jingoistic, but it gets there in the end.
9. Symphony No 6, Beethoven - "Pastorale" symphony. Beautiful piece of music.
8. Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf - A choice that reflects the way that our culture no longer thinks that there is a place of eternal punishment called Hell. Lyrics of love and death sung so quickly that most people don't really know what he's saying. I have to admit to liking it - but not at a funeral.
7. Another One Bites the Dust, Queen - True at a funeral. Biblically based in Genesis 3:19 "...for dust you are and to dust you will return." But the song itself it a bitter tirade against being used and dumped in love.
6. The Lord's my Shepherd, Psalm 23 - Spot on.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
5. My Way, Frank Sinatra - The old crooner expressing his self-centredness. It's true of all of us. There in lies the problem of my life - I did it "My Way".
4. Jerusalem - Rip roaring tune, with words that slightly confuse England with Heaven. Not much use if you voted "Remain". But I suspect could be high on the list for Nigel Farage's funeral. Maybe after "My Way"?
3. Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin - A classic, which none of my children knew! I educated them, much to their disdain. Again, starts with a biblical image from Genesis 28. But the only lyrics from the song that I understand are "Oooh, it makes you wonder." Because the rest is so weird that it does!
2. Abide with me - a beautiful hymn asking for God's help as death approaches. Popular during the First World War and FA Cup finals. An appropriate reminder that because Jesus has conquered death, for those who trust in Him death is not the end.
I fear no foe with you at hand to bless,
though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, your victory?
I triumph still, if you abide with me.
1. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Monty Python. - This is the only answer that a world without Jesus has to the problem of death - to cling to life and to pretend that it's not that bad. It's a tragic choice, because it belittles the reality of loss and grief.
In the film the "Life of Brian" it's sung by people being crucified. Ironically, it is because Jesus died on the cross that there is a bright side of life. Even a bright side of death. He took the curse of death for me, so that I know today that I am loved by God whatever happens. And he rose from the dead, so I know that after death all my tomorrows will be spent with him in paradise.
Perhaps it's not totally inappropriate for a Christian funeral after all! With a bit of explaining...