Sunday, February 04, 2007

Last requests

Mostly it is a blessing when someone has taken the time to write out what s/he would want for their memorial service ahead of time. It lets you know their favorite hymns, their most cherished scripture, their thoughts on burial vs. cremation and where to direct memorial gifts.

Sometimes, however, these plans include impossible or at least compliated requests. For example:

The former pastor of the church should officiate at the ceremony
A solo should be sung by a former memeber who left the congregtion in a huff 2 years ago
A particular song should be sung by the whole choir, (the whole choir is not normally present for funerals.)
A very difficult song that the designated soloist does not know and does not have time to learn before the ceremony is requested


Since these requests are in writing from someone dear to them who has just passed, family members can be extremely sensitive about any hint that the request(s) may not be possible or advisable. The requests seem to thm almost to have the weight of law--especially when they are in the same envelope as the will.

Have any of you all run into this? Any creative advice?


Presbyterian Gal said...

How about:
"What a blessing that (name of departed) outlived our church's ability to accommodate these requests. Sadly, this isn't going to work for us today. I deeply apologize for that. Here's what we can offer you at this time.......(outline what you've got)"

PPB said...

I ended up going against some of my grandfather's pre-written requests. It did feel wrong, but realistically, if I were to write my funeral plans today, they would be different than the ones I would have written a year ago. Preferences change and allegiences change, too.

I still felt smarmy about not following his directions, though.

Bag Lady said...

When my mother died, it was up to me (mostly) to organize the funeral (readings, music, etc.).

I really wanted a song by Vaughan Williams (which interestingly turned up as a hymn in the hymnal), but the vocal musicians (family members) didn't know it, and told me they didn't have enough time to learn it. As a professional musician, who knew they were amateurs, I didn't press it.

As for a choir at a funeral -- in my previous parish, the choir(s) sang for a number of funerals, but it was made clear (if the family didn't realize it beforehand) that a specified contribution to the choir fund was required. A written policy for funerals (and weddings, too) can be very helpful, though in the midst of turmoil surrounding a death, policies may simply be unabsorbable by a family.

As for disregarding a loved one's wishes -- very difficult, depending upon several factors. My mother's funeral was held in the church she had left in protest several years earlier, and she was buried in the graveyard of a church that had been prejudiced against her in the '60s.

My parents already had their plots in the churchyard, and as for the funeral, that church was her last recorded membership. Other Lutheran churches in the area were deeply uncomfortable about holding a funeral for another church's member, regardless of the circumstances.

Dad was with me through all this, but I still wish it could have been different (with lots'o'money, what couldn't a person do?).