Two times last week I was told that a friend or a loved one had requested that some of my music be played at their funeral service. That always pleases me, but at the same time, I never know quite what to say.
It’s certainly a compliment, an honor if you will, but somehow it still makes me feel awkward. I guess it’s just hard for me to feel worthy. I’m just a hillbilly singer and songwriter, for goodness sake. I don’t feel as though I deserve to be such a big part of someone else’s life.
It brings to mind a story, though, that my songwriting friend, Bobby Braddock, told recently. It seems as though a friend of his makes a large part of his living singing at weddings and funerals. A lady recently came to the singer and asked if he would sing at her husband’s funeral. The man said of course he would, and asked what songs the widow thought might be appropriate.
“Well,” she said, “his favorite song was ‘Jingle Bells’. I want you to sing ‘Jingle Bells’ at his service.”
Obviously, the man was quite taken back. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I’ve never sung ‘Jingle Bells’ at a funeral before.” He was trying hard to keep from laughing. It sounded so totally out of place.
“Oh, no, I’m very serious. That was my husband’s favorite song and that’s the one I want you to sing.”
The singer agreed, went home, and practiced singing ‘Jingle Bells’ in as somber a manner as he could. But somehow “dashing through the snow…in a one horse open sleigh” just didn’t sound reverential.
But he went through with it. He sang the song as seriously as he could, and when he saw the widow after the service he said, “I hope that was all right.”
“Oh, you did fine,” she assured him as she paid him for his services. “But I was wrong. I didn’t mean ‘Jingle Bells’. I meant ‘When They Ring Those GOLDEN Bells!”
That’s sort of what I think when someone tells me they want my music played at a funeral. I’m tempted to say, “Do you mean Bill ANDERSON? You sure you don’t mean Bill GAITHER??”
Truthfully, I am humbled. I actually appreciate it very much.