Like many men of his generation, my dad was a farm boy before joining the Army Air Corp at the beginning of World War II. He turned 90 in July, and the influence of his childhood has never been more evident than it is now.
On several occasions across the years he has commented that growing up on a farm teaches a person how to face the inevitable hardships of life, particularly death. Cows and pigs are slaughtered, chickens get their necks wrung and horses have to be put down. Even the family dog may meet his match with some critter in the woods. However death comes, someone has to deal with it without falling apart, and well, that’s what farm families do.
Now, don’t think for a moment that Dad is not compassionate. He is very tenderhearted. It’s just that farm life necessitated a realistic view of what Solomon in Ecclesiastes calls life “under the sun.”
Not surprisingly, my dad’s attitude about death and his occasional dark humor have rubbed off on me, which brings me to the subject of this post: my funeral.
I’m not obsessed with it, but I have decided on a few of the elements, an important one being the songs that will be sung.
Because music is such a big part of my life, I catch myself in reverie over the list. I imagine friends and family singing the words and melodies that we shared together. Is that unhealthy? I don’t think so.
Below is my current list. Current because I make changes from time to time. When that happens, I’ll usually say something like this to my wife: “You know that song we sang this morning during worship, I’m adding that to my funeral list.” For years she didn’t share my enthusiasm, but after 41 years of marriage, I’ve won her over to the dark side, and now she’s got her own list. Does that mean we’re getting old?
At any rate, my list is below. Yeah, I know it’s long, so I’ll excuse you if pass on the occasion. The good news is that there will be no eulogy; however, there will be a sermon and it might not be short. In the meantime, I’d love to know what’s on your list.
“And Can It Be” – Charles Wesley, 1738.
My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee
“Like A River Glorious” – A lesser known hymn written by Francis Havergal in 1876. These words have been great comfort in difficult times.
Every joy or trial falleth from above
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.
“Before the Throne of God Above” – Original words were written by Charitie L. Bancroft in 1863. In 1997, Vikki Cook wrote the perfect melody.
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
“Jesus, Priceless Treasure” – This German hymn was written in the mid 1600s and later translated into English. I’m partial to a newer melody written by David Hampton, a gifted Nashville musician.
Banished is our sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
“Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” – Written by Jean S. Pigott, 1876. Sung by one of my best friends at my daughter’s wedding and at the baptism of three of my grandchildren. Again, David Hampton composed my favorite melody to these words.
Ever lift Thy face upon me,
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
“I Will Glory In My Redeemer” – Written by Steve and Vikki Cook in 2000, Christians will be singing this new hymn for decades to come.
I will glory in my Redeemer
Who waits for me at gates of gold
And when He calls me, it will be paradise
His face forever to behold
His face forever to behold
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” – This one is so familiar that it’s easy to overlook its message. Note that the comma in the title helps us recognized the metaphor of Christ as the wellspring of all that is good.
Come, thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
“In Christ Alone” – If it was a movie or book, we’d call it an epic because it covers so much ground. The list is not in any order, but if it were, this one, written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, would be in the top slot.
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home –
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.
Benediction (May the Peace of God) – another Getty/Townend composition.
And to Him be praise for His glorious reign;
From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven
We declare the name of the Lamb once slain –
Christ eternal, the King of Kings.