So Iím not expecting to die soon. But I am expecting to die eventually.
And when I do, Iím going to be prepared.
OK, thatís not technically accurate, either. Iím not really prepared to meet my Maker, my mother, my big sister Jean or anyone else who might possibly be displeased with some of the choices Iíve made in my life. But I am prepared for the funeral service. For the past 20 years or so, whenever I hear an especially good singer sing an especially good song, I ask them to sing at my funeral. So far, no one has turned me down.
Which means you can expect to hear about 87 musical numbers at my funeral.
You may want to bring a lunch.
Musically speaking, it should be wonderful. Of course, I wonít be there to listen to it. Hopefully Iíll be listening to a different kind of heavenly music at that particular point in time ñ although I do understand that there are other possibilities for me. Back in the day, Mom told me that she thought the Doors ñ a particular favorite of mine ñ are the official rock group of Hades, and that when you enter the hot and fiery regions below youíll hear ìLight My Fireî playing in the background. So the way I see it, one way or the other Iíll be listening to some good tunes.
But I wonít be listening to the musicians Iíve already invited to sing at my funeral. And I wonít have to deal with those awkward moments when performers arrive, sheet music in hand, expecting to sing for the services. That privilege will go to my wife or my children, who will have to figure out who sings and who . . .
Oh man. I just remembered. I asked my children to sing, too.
Suddenly Iím feeling a little guilty for something that started out quite innocently ñ even nobly. I was simply telling people that I loved their music. But I couldnít let it go at that. I loved their music so much that I wanted to hear it again ñ even if that meant over my dead body. In so doing, however, I may have created a situation that may ultimately prove to be frustrating for my family and hurtful to those who I was trying to praise and honor.
In retrospect, it seems that I do that a lot. My intentions are good, but I donít always think through all of the implications of my words and actions on others. Like when I wrote that column years ago praising the courage of a young woman who was suffering from a painful and embarrassing skin disease, only to find out that she found my column to be a form of public humiliation. Or when I recently substituted for a Sunday School teacher and brought treats to the students, not realizing that I was making it awkward for the regular teacher, who was trying to follow the Sunday School rules of ìno treats in class.î Or when I tried to be kind to a new colleague, asking when her baby is due, only to have her coldly point out that ñ you can see this coming, canít you? ñ she isnít pregnant.
In every case, a little care and caution ñ and maybe even a phone call or two ñ would have saved me from embarrassment, and from inflicting hurt feelings where I truly had no intention of inflicting them. And it would have kept my feet off of the road to a certain theological inferno, which as we all know is paved with good intentions.
And which, it turns out, has some great background music.